7-phase Lok Sabha polls to begin April 11, counting on May 23: EC

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The polling will be held on April 11, April 18, April 23, April 29, May 6, May 12 and May 19 for 543 Lok Sabha seats across the country in which nearly 90 crore voters would be eligible to vote, the Chief Election Commissioner Sunil Arora said at a packed press conference in New Delhi.

Assembly elections will also be held in Andhra Pradesh, Sikkim, Arunachal Pradesh and Odisha simultaneously with the Lok Sabha polls, the CEC said.

However, elections for Jammu and Kashmir assembly will not to be held along with the Lok Sabha polls, the EC said citing security reasons. The state has been under Governor’s rule after the ruling alliance between the BJP and People’s Democratic Party fell apart last year.National Conference, Congress and other opposition parties slammed the decision to not hold assembly polls in J&K, while opposition leaders elsewhere including in West Bengal also latched onto the EC decision to hold multi-phase elections in their states to slam the government on law and order situation.

Arora said the model code of conduct would come into immediate effect from Sunday and 10 lakhs polling stations would be set up this time as against about nine lakhs in 2014.

Among other restrictions, the model code bars the government from announcing any policy move that may impact voters’ decision.

The EC said the ‘voter verifiable paper audit trail’ (VVPAT) will be used in all polling stations this time.

Counting of votes for all seven phases would be done on May 23, Arora said.

In 2014, BJP had won 282 seats out of 543 constituencies in Lok Sabha handing a crushing defeat to the 10-year-rule of the United Progressive Alliance led by Congress.

While Prime Minister Narendra Modi will seek to retain power, the opposition is seeking to put up a spirited fight to defeat the ruling BJP.

‘Best wishes to the Election Commission, all those officials and security personnel who will be on the field, across the length and breadth of India assuring smooth elections. India is very proud of the EC for assiduously organising elections for several years,’ Modi tweeted.

In the press briefing, Arora also reassured the nation of the EC’s ‘solemn resolve and deep commitment to fulfil its constitutional mandate to conduct free, fair and credible elections’.

He said all political advertisements on social media will need pre-certification and that the candidates will have to give details of their social media accounts to the election commission.

The CEC said 91 constituencies will go for polls in first phase, 97 in second phase, 115 in third phase, 71 in fourth, 51 in fifth, 59 in sixth and 59 in the seventh phase.

The election will pit the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance against mostly different opposition groupings in various states, including of Congress, Left and regional forces who are continuing to work out a grand alliance to minimise a division of votes against the Modi government.

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