New Delhi, March 5 IANS | 6 months ago

India will elect a new parliament over nine days in April-May in the world's largest democratic exercise, with the Election Commission Wednesday saying the results will be declared May 16.


Political parties across the spectrum, already in election gear, largely welcomed the staggered exercise. The BJP exuded confidence it will win the battle but the ruling Congress rubbished the claim.

A whopping 814 million Indians -- almost the combined population of Russia, the US, Brazil and Bangladesh -- will be eligible to vote in the 16th parliamentary election to elect the 16th Lok Sabha, the House of People or what is called the lower house.

This is an increase of some 100 million from the 2009 election -- and a sharp rise from the 176 million of 1951 when newly independent India conducted its maiden Lok Sabha election.

Along with the Lok Sabha polls, Sikkim, Odisha and Andhra Pradesh states will elect new assemblies, Chief Election Commissioner V.S. Sampath said while unveiling the staggered election schedule at the Vigyan Bhawan convention centre.

"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.

The millions of votes will be counted on May 16, the results coming out in a few hours, a feat perhaps unparalleled in the world.

Sampath urged the people to "vote in an informed and ethical manner" and appealed to political parties and candidates to uphold India's "democratic traditions ... by maintaining high standards of discourse and fair play".

The poll panel promised "free, fair and credible elections".

BJP's prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi said the election was a "historic opportunity" to lay the foundation for a "developed India". Modi asked people to "make the right choice".

The Gujarat chief minister added: "I call upon the people of India to bless us, give the BJP-led NDA (National Democratic Alliance) a majority and make Mission 272+ a grand reality for the prosperity of India."

The reference was to the number that would give a party or a coalition a majority in the lower house.

The Congress rubbished the BJP's victory claim.

Congress leader and Law Minister Kapil Sibal said the BJP's dream of winning would turn out to be a dream -- a la 2004 and 2009 when it lost to the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance (UPA).

The AAP, the country's latest political force, said it was confident of taking on both the BJP and the Congress despite having taken birth only in November 2012.

"We will give a good fight to the Congress and the BJP," Aam Aadmi Party spokesman Nagendra Sharma told IANS.

For the first time in any parliamentary election, voters will be free to reject all available candidates and go for "None of the Above" option -- 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 steps to check this.

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."

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

Six Lok Sabha constituencies in two states - Assam (5) and Tripura (1) - 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 factors such as school examinations, monsoon, harvesting season and local festivals.

(Posted on 05-03-2014)


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