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We decide our own schedule: Election Commission rebuts Congress' charges

Given the high voltage campaigning and prevailing security situation, the Lok Sabha polls this time are expected to spread over 7 to 9 phases during the month of April and May

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Chief Election Commissioner Sunil Arora
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Rejecting Congress allegations of delaying announcement of Lok Sabha polls to accommodate Prime Minister Narendra Modi's schedule, the Election Commission sources on Thursday said the Commission strictly operates as per its own schedule which has nothing to do with PM's schedule.

As per the rules, any minister of the union government or state government is barred from inaugurating or announcing any schemes after the announcement of polls schedule as it kicks in the model code of conduct.

The sources said, the Commission after having meetings with all stakeholders is in final phase of completing the logistical details and full schedule for Lok Sabha elections will be announced in next three-four days.

"Last time in 2014, the last date of delivering results for Lok Sabha elections was May 31, and the poll schedule was announced on March 5. This time, the last date to deliver results for General Elections is June 3 and we have enough time. There is no delay on any count," said sources.

The required electronic voting machines and paper trail machines are in place to be deployed in nearly 10 lakh polling stations across 543 Lok Sabha constituencies. The Commission, however, is yet to take a view on opposition parties demand to increase the percentage of voter verifiable paper audit trail (VVPAT) machines with corresponding electronic voting machines (EVMs) to at least 25 percent.

Given the high voltage campaigning and prevailing security situation, the Lok Sabha polls this time are expected to spread over 7 to 9 phases during the month of April and May. In 2014, the Commission had announced the election schedule on March 5 for nine phase electoral exercise in April and May. In 2009, the EC had announced Lok Sabha poll scheduled on March 2 kicking in five-phase polls between April 16 to May 13.

There is a strong possibility that the Commission may go by the precedent and hold assembly elections in Arunachal Pradesh, Andhra Pradesh, Odisha and Sikkim.

While the term of the Sikkim assembly ends on May 27, 2019, the terms of Andhra, Odisha and Arunachal assemblies end on June 18, June 11 and June 1 respectively.

Though, the EC is bound by rules to hold fresh assembly elections in J&K within a six-month period, which is ending in May, the grim security situation with the state and on the international border and LoC can play a role in scheduling the elections in J&K.

While the Centre and the state administration, being managed by the Centre-appointed governor, are against holding the two elections together, all political parties have favoured simultaneous polls during a meeting with the EC earlier this week.

7-9 PHASES LIKELY

Given the high voltage campaigning and prevailing security situation, the Lok Sabha polls this time are expected to spread over 7 to 9 phases during the month of April and May

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