In India, 7-phase Lok Sabha elections will begin on April 19,results on June 4

NEW DELHI: The seven-phase Lok Sabha polls, the world’s biggest election exercise, will kick off on April 19 with the counting of votes set to take place on June 4 as Prime Minister of India Narendra Modi makes a bid for a third consecutive term in office.

Announcing the election schedule on Saturday, Chief Election Commissioner Rajiv Kumar said over 97 crore voters – 49.7 crore males and 47.1 crore females – were eligible to cast their vote in the polling process spread over 44 days and across 10.5 lakh polling booths.

The elections will begin on April 19 followed by subsequent phases on April 26, May 7, May 13, May 20, May 25 and June 1, Kumar said at a press conference.

In the previous general elections in 2019, there were a total of 91.2 crore eligible voters of which 61.5 crore — 67.4 per cent — turned out to exercise their franchise.

Kumar said the aim was to improve the voting percentage in this election and better the record of holding peaceful and fair elections with near-zero repolls.

The Election Commission is pulling out all stops to increase voter turnout and has plans to reach out to voters over the age of 85 years at their homes to help them cast their votes. Similar facilities will be available to persons with more than 40 per cent disabilities.

The model code of conduct has come into effect with the announcement of the elections.

”It is our promise to deliver a national election in a manner that we … remain a beacon for democracy around the world,” Kumar said.

The entire election process, from the announcement of polls on Saturday to the declaration of results on June 4, spans across 82 days.

Assembly elections in Arunachal Pradesh and Sikkim will be held on April 19, and in Andhra Pradesh on May 13. Elections to Odisha assembly will be held in four phases on May 13, May 20, May 25 and June 1.

Bypolls will also be held for 26 assembly constituencies, Kumar said at the press conference flanked by two new Election Commissioners Gyanesh Kumar and Sukhbir Singh Sandhu.

Polling will be held in all seven phases in three states – Bihar, West Bengal and Uttar Pradesh.

The CEC said the poll authority is prepared to counter the challenges of four ‘M’s – muscle power, money power, misinformation and Model Code of Conduct violations.

Nearly 1.5 crore personnel including those on election and security duties will be deployed for the smooth conduct of polls.

Drone-based checking at borders, surveillance of non-chartered flights, a crackdown on misleading advertisements and fake news, and ”ruthless” action against poll violence are part of the EC’s strategy to deal with the four challenges.

Soon after the Election Commission announced the Lok Sabha polls, Modi, in a series of posts on X, highlighted the ”glorious turnaround” India has seen in the 10 years of his government and said the ruling alliance will go to people based on its track record of good governance and service delivery across sectors.

Congress President Mallikarjun Kharge said the Lok Sabha elections were ”perhaps the last chance to save democracy and our Constitution from dictatorship”.

”The 2024 Lok Sabha elections will open the ‘door of Nyay’ for India. This would be perhaps the last chance to save democracy and our Constitution from dictatorship,” he said.

The chief election commissioner said the assembly election in Jammu and Kashmir would take place soon after the Lok Sabha polls. He said it was unfeasible to hold elections simultaneously due to the logistical challenge of providing security to every candidate in the Union Territory.

In ethnic violence-hit Manipur, people living in camps will be allowed to vote from there with the Election Commission making special two-phase voting arrangements in one of the two Lok Sabha constituencies.

In the first phase on April 19, voting will take place in 102 constituencies spread over 21 states/UTs, with 10 states/UTs completing the poll process in this phase.

Voting will take place in 89 constituencies across 13 states/UTs in the second phase on April 26, Kumar said, adding that the poll process would be completed in four more states/UTs.

In the third phase on May 7, voting will take place in 94 constituencies spread across 12 states/UTs. With this, polling will be completed in six more states/UTs.

In the fourth phase on May 13, 96 constituencies spread across 10 states UTs would vote. With this, three more states/UTs would have completed voting.

As many as 49 constituencies spread across eight states/UTs will vote in phase five on May 20. This phase will see voting completed in three more states/UTs.

In the sixth phase on May 25, voting will take place in 57 constituencies spread across seven states/UTs. Polling in two more states/UTs would be completed with this phase.

The seventh and final phase will take place on June 1 in 57 constituencies spread across eight states/UTs. The polling process in eight states/UTs would be completed.

The CEC advised political parties against hate speeches, caste or religious appeals, criticism of any aspect of private life, masquerading of advertisements as news and social media posts vilifying or insulting rivals.

”Pattern of past MCC violations will prepare the ground for civilised campaigning in Lok Sabha elections. There should be responsibility on star campaigners for maintaining decorum,” he said.

Responding to a question about allegations of biases in dealing with MCC violations during previous elections, Kumar said, ”Wherever there will be a case of violation against anyone however renowned the politician may be, we will not sit back, we will take action. Earlier we used to morally censure”.

Source: Press Trust of India

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