India goes to polls April-May, vote count May 16

New Delhi


India will elect a new Lok Sabha in a staggered election to be conducted from April 7 to May 12, and the results will be announced May 16, the Election Commission announced Wednesday.

The world's largest democratic exercise will involve a staggering 814 million voters, an increase of some 100 million from 2009 and a sharp rise from the 176 million in the first parliamentary polls of 1952.

Simultaneous assembly elections will be held in Sikkim, Odisha and Andhra Pradesh, Chief Election Commissioner V.S. Sampath said while unveiling the staggered election schedule.

"Credible elections are the very soul and hallmark of any democratic system," Sampath told the media.

Polling will take place for 543 of the 545 Lok Sabha seats -- two members are nominated by the president -- on April 7, 9, 10, 12, 17, 24 and 30 and May 7 and 12.

Sampath urged the people to "exercise their right to vote in an informed and ethical manner".

He also appealed to political parties and candidates "to uphold the democratic traditions of the nation by maintaining high standards of political discourse and fair play".

"The Election Commission," he added, "reassures the nation of its solemn resolve and deep commitment to fulfil its constitutional mandate to conduct free, fair and credible elections."

Election Commissioner H.S. Brahma added: "We appeal to all political parties not to use any such words or language that is against decorum and decency."

For the first time in any parliamentary election, voters will be free to go for "None of the Above" option among the candidates -- a provision made available in the November-December assembly polls in five states.

Sampath expressed concern over the use of money power aimed at influencing voters and said the poll panel was taking a string of steps to check this.

There will be about 930,000 polling stations across the country -- a 12 percent rise from the 2009 election.

The model code of conduct came into effect with Wednesday's announcement. Sampath said the code was necessary to ensure a level playing field among various contenders for power.

Brahma said for reasons of security, balloting will take place in areas where Maoists were active on one single day.

Six Lok Sabha constituencies in two states will see polling on the first day April 7.

This will be followed by seven constituencies spread over five states April 9, 92 constituencies/14 states April 10, five constituencies/three states April 12, 122 constituencies/13 states April 17, 117 constituencies/12 states April 24, 89 constituencies/nine states April 30, 64 constituencies/seven states May 7 and 41 constituencies/three states May 12.

Sampath said the election schedule was arrived at after taking into view several factors such as school examinations, monsoon, harvesting season and local festivals.

On March 9, voters all over the country will be able to check for themselves, in designated stations near their homes, if their names do figure in the electoral rolls or not. - IANS