EC announces five-phase polls for 15th Lok Sabha

The Election Commission on Monday announced dates for the 15th Lok Sabha elections, the five-phase polls will be held from April 16 to May 13.

During phase one of polling on April 16, votes would be cast for 124 seats in Andhra Pradesh, Arunachal Pradesh, Assam, Bihar, Jammu and Kashmir, Kerala, Maharashtra, Manipur, Meghalaya, Mizoram, Nagaland, Orissa, Uttar Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, Andaman and Nicobar Island and Lakshadweep.

In phase two on April 23, voters will cast franchise for 141 constituencies in Andhra Pradesh, Assam, Bihar, Goa, Jammu and Kashmir, Karnataka, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Manipur, Orissa, Tripura, Uttar Pradesh and Jharkhand.

Phase three on April 30, voting will be held for 107 seats in Bihar, Gujarat, Jammu and Kashmir, Karnataka, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Sikkim, Uttar Pradesh, West Bengal, Dadar and Nagar Haveli and Daman and Diu.

Phase four on May 7, 85 seats in eight northern states of Bihar, Haryana, Jammu and Kashmir, Punjab, Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh, West Bengal and Delhi go to polls.

On May 13 votes will be cast for 86 constituencies in Himachal Pradesh, Jammu and Kashmir, Punjab, Tamil Nadu, Uttar Pradesh, West Bengal, Uttarakhand, Chandigargh and Puducherry.

Counting of votes is scheduled to commence in the morning of May 16.

The announcement of dates by default triggers off the model code of conduct which came into force today.

Earlier, the three-member Election Commission met in New Delhi to finalise the schedule.

The EC meeting was chaired by Chief Election Commissioner N Gopalaswami who retires on Aril 20, after the first phase of elections are completed.

Gapalaswami had earlier courted controversy after he wrote a letter to the President seeking the removal of his colleague Election Commissioner, Navin Chawla.

President Pratibha Patil, however, rejected Gopalaswami’s recommendations after consulting the Law Ministry.

Chawla is now being tipped as the odds on favourite to take over from Gopalaswami as the next CEC.

The 14th Lok Sabha, which was adjourned on Thursday, had 217 members from the UPA compared to 185 from the NDA while the Left Front had 60 MPs.

There were three independents in the House while outfits such as the Bahujan Samaj Party, Telugu Desam Party other smaller parties had 78 members.

The EC announcement is bound to result in hectic pre-poll activities across political outfits, though the primary contest is between the ruling United Progressive Alliance (UPA) and the main opposition National Democratic Alliance (NDA), the days to come are likely to see the Third Front led by the Left parties and the Bahujan Samaj Party gather steam.

Madhya Pradesh, where the ruling BJP and the Congress will be in a straight contest,  will witness polling on phases two and three on April 23 and April 30. The parliamentary polls are being viewed as a contest between Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan and state Congress unit chief and former Union Minister Suresh Pachouri.

Though Chouhan is not in the electoral fray, Pachouri is likely to look for his eluding election victory from Hoshangabad, but some say his candidature from the state capital, Bhopal, could still not be ruled out.

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