NEW DELHI: The Election Commission, which is now in the final stages of drawing up the general election schedule, is looking at the first week of March to announce polls to Lok Sabha and state assemblies of Andhra Pradesh, Odisha and Sikkim. As per indications available, polling may be conducted over six phases in April-May and approximately last a month.
Elections are likely to be completed by May 15, allowing political parties a fortnight to explore options for forming the next government. The term of the current Lok Sabha comes to an end on May 31.
While sources in the home ministry, which works closely with the EC on phasing of polls based on the availability of central paramilitary forces, hinted that the polls may be declared as early as March 3, a senior EC functionary said the announcement may come anytime between March 6 and 10.
The model code of conduct will come into effect immediately after EC issues the press note on the schedule for polls.
As many as 1.2 lakh security personnel, including central paramilitary forces and armed wings of various state police, are likely to be deployed for the general election. The country’s electorate now stands at 81.4 crore, with 9.7 crore new voters getting added to the rolls since the 2009 polls.
Candidates can look forward to a significant raise in the expenditure ceiling, which may be revised to Rs 70 lakh from Rs 40 lakh for a Lok Sabha constituency and to Rs 28 lakh from Rs 16 lakh for an assembly seat in the bigger states. The new limits, based on change in prices, are likely to be notified by the law ministry soon.
Though the home ministry has suggested that polling in “difficult” areas like Naxalite-dominated pockets of Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand and Odisha be conducted in the initial phase, allowing maximum concentration of central forces, the commission may cover these regions only midway through the schedule. Sources said polling in this tribal belt, which has a good concentration of Christians, may be scheduled only after Good Friday (April 18) and Easter (April 20).
The EC will also take into account other festivals and holidays in April, including Ramnavami (April 8), Baisakhi (April 13/14), Bihu (celebrated in Assam over three days in mid-April) and Ambedkar Jayanti (April 14) while finalizing the poll schedule.