A nine-phase election schedule spread over 36 days to choose the 16th Lok Sabha was announced by the Election Commission (EC) on Wednesday. While the polling dates are spread over from April 7 to May 12, the counting will take place on May 16. Chief election commissioner VS Sampath announced the model code of conduct has come into effect immediately.
The large states of Uttar Pradesh and Bihar have polls on six days, West Bengal and Jammu & Kashmir on five days, while they will be held on three days in Assam, Jharkhand, Madhya Pradesh and Maharashtra, which will go to polls on April 10, 17 and 24. Gujarat will vote on April 30 and Goa and neighbouring Karnataka on April 17.
Rajasthan will have polling in two phases on April 17 and 24. Delhi will go to polls on April 10 while Tamil Nadu and Puducherry on April 24. Some 10 crore more voters are enrolled for the 2014 election compared to 2009, making the total electorate of 81.4 crore. Those who have not enrolled yet can enrol on March 9 at 9 lakh booths across the country.
The EC’s announcement sets into motion the largest such multi-party electoral exercise in the world, involving over three quarters of a billion people. It is an election where some of the most modern technology is used, but in which medieval notions will vie for attention with modern concepts like egalitarianism and empowerment of the poor and women. Nowhere in the world will a select band of political leaders heli-hop from paddy fields to maidans to stadia to try to sell political ideas to mostly uneducated or semi-literate millions. The Indian elections are a seemingly impossible exercise, but something which happens with such regularity that ennui sets in for many and 30 per cent of the eligible voters do not vote. To overcome such cynicism the EC has introduced a NOTA (None of the above) option for the anti-political millions.
It will basically be a three-cornered fight (UPA, NDA, Third Front and others) with the ruling UPA led by the Congress struggling to retain its urban, tribal and some rural strongholds against a resurgent BJP trying to unseat the alliance, not by any new political ploy, but by projecting (almost literally in 3D) a new prime ministerial candidate. This dandy, aviator-wearing bearded man, Narendra Modi, is being projected as the man who will turn India into a haven of plenty from the morass of corruption and inefficiency it is now.
The incumbent Congress, too, has a new prime ministerial candidate, Rahul Gandhi, who brings not just a fresh breath and look to an aging vericose-veined party, but also new ideas and the potential of youth. In him, India’ s GOP (Grand Old Party) sees not just the continuation of the Nehru dynasty, but also someone who will stabilise and carry forward the empowerment revolution piloted by his mother Sonia Gandhi, who guided the UPA for over 8 years.
Sonia, Rahul and the Congress will be claiming that the last two tenures of the UPA were marked by pro-poor measures due to which the country’s marginalised millions finally got some public money through various subsidies and the grandiose rural employment scheme (NREGA). The Congress hopes that this time around, too, the impoverished and the newly enabled will register their vote of thanks to the Congress. This, along with an almost total consolidation of minority votes (against the rise of Modi), the party hopes will be a clincher.
Though third in nomenclature (Third Front), the various leaders of this assorted front of non-Congress and non-BJP parties led by powerful regional satraps claim they are the First Front. Within this conglomerate, there are various groups, an 11-party assortment led by the Left leading the fray. Other parties like the Trinamool Congress of West Bengal, the Biju Janata Dal of Orissa, the BSP of UP, could opportunistically join up this Front post-election.
In case of a hung Parliament, there could also be the remote possibility of the Congress supporting this group from outside for the urgent purpose of keeping Modi and the BJP out of power.
Unpredictable, but brash and ambitious, the Arvind Kejriwal-led Aam Aadmi party is likely to maintain its supremacy in Delhi and play spoiler in 10 or 15 other urban constituencies, including Mumbai.
Various poll projections have placed the BJP as the leading party, though not with a majority in the House. The ABP news-Nielsen national opinion poll gives the BJP around 210 of the 543 parliamentary seats.
On the other hand, the Congress-led UPA would end up with just 101 seats. On the whole, the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance will get 226 seats. Left parties would get 30 while 186 seats would go to others.
C-voter (now discredited) and the India Today group pre-poll survey puts the BJP at 188 seats. The UPA has been given only 109 seats this time. The NDA’s tally would be 212 seats and others 222 seats.
The entire electoral process will take a grinding 75 days from today to the finish. After that, hopefully the nation will emerge refreshed.
Election dates: State-wise
Bihar: April 10, 17, 24, 30, May 7, 12
Odisha: April 10, 17
West Bengal: April 17, 24, 30, May 7, 12
Jharkhand: April 10, 17, 24
Goa: April 17
Gujarat: April 30
Maharashtra: April 10, 17, 24
Rajasthan: April 17, 24
Haryana: April 10
Himachal Pradesh: May 7
Jammu and Kashmir: April 10, 17, 24, 30, May 7
Punjab: April 30
Uttar Pradesh: April 10, 17, 24, 30, May 7, 12
Uttarakhand: May 7
Karnataka: April 17
Kerala: April 10
Tamil Nadu: April 24
Andhra Pradesh: April 30, May 7
Manipur: April 9, 17
Meghalaya: April 9
Mizoram: April 9
Nagaland: April 9
Arunachal Pradesh: April 9
Assam: April 7, 12, 24
Sikkim: April 12
Tripura: April 7, 12
Andamans: April 10
Chandigarh: April 10
Dadra Nagar Haveli: April 30
Daman and Diu: April 30
Lakshadweep: April 10
NCT OF Delhi: April 10
Puducherry: April 24
Chhattisgarh: April 10, 17, 24
Madhya Pradesh: April 10, 17, 24