The Lok Sabha Elections 2019 will be held in seven phases, starting from April 11, while the results of all the phases will be declared on May 23, the Election Commission of India announced on Sunday. The Election Commission on Sunday imposed 'Model Code of Conduct' with immediate effect for the Lok Sabha elections and announced that voter 'verifiable paper audit trail' will be used in all polling stations this time.
Among other things, the model code of conduct bars the government from announcing any policy move that may impact voters' decision. Announcing the seven-phase schedule for 2019 Lok Sabha polls, Chief Election Commissioner Sunil Arora also said 10 lakh polling stations would be set up this time as against about nine lakhs in 2014.
He said the Model Code of Conduct for polls has come into immediate effect from Sunday and all political advertisements on social media will need pre-certification. The EC said 91 constituencies will go for polls in the first phase on April 11, followed by 97 constituencies in the second phase on April 18. The second phase will be held on April 18, third on April 23 and fourth on April 29, fifth on May 6, sixth on May 12 and seventh phase on May 19. Counting of votes for all seven phases covering 543 Lok Sabha constituencies would take place on May 23, Arora said.
In the first phase, 91 constituencies will go for polls, 97 constituencies in the second phase, 115 constituencies in the third, 71 in the fourth phase, 51 in the fifth phase, 59 in the sixth phase and 59 in the seventh phase. In the first phase, the polling will be held in Andhra Pradesh, Arunachal Pradesh, Goa, Gujarat, Haryana, Himachal Pradesh, Kerala, Meghalaya, Mizoram, Nagaland, Punjab, Sikkim, Telangana, Tamil Nadu, Andaman and Nicobar, Dadra and Nagar Haveli, Daman and Diu, Lakshadweep, Delhi, Puducherry, Chandigarh, Uttarakhand.
Assembly polls in Andhra Pradesh, Arunachal, Odisha and Sikkim will also be held simultaneously, the Election Commission (EC) said. However, elections for the Jammu and Kashmir Assembly, which was dissolved after the ruling coalition between the BJP and the PDP fell apart, will not be held along with the Lok Sabha polls.
The announcement of dates for the elections, in which Prime Minister Narendra Modi will make his bid to return to power amid hectic parleys by several political parties to put a united fight against the ruling BJP, would be followed by a meeting of election observers next week for the first and second phase of polling.
The election will pit the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance against several opposition parties, including the Congress, the Left and regional forces who are continuing to work out a grand alliance to minimise a division of votes against Prime Minister Narendra Modi-led ruling combine.
The BJP has succeeded in working out a seat-sharing formula with some new allies and several old partners, by even making concessions to them in states like Bihar. However, opposition parties are yet to arrive at a deal in several states.
While the NDA hopes to make history by coming back to power for a second full term, the Opposition wants to unseat the Modi government by raising questions on its performance on a host of issues, including economic growth, employment, corruption and social harmony.
Atal Bihari Vajpayee had led the NDA to back to back Lok Sabha wins in 1998 and 1999 general elections but he was at the helm of only one full-term government.
With the model code of conduct for elections coming into immediate effect, the government cannot announce any policy move that may impact voters' decision.
Arora said all political advertisements on social media will need pre-certification.
After suffering losses in assembly polls in three states recently, the BJP believes that its Lok Sabha poll campaign is back on track due to a host of decisions, including 10 per cent quota for the general category poor, money transfer to farmers and presentation of a populist budget.
What has injected further confidence into the NDA fold is the fronting of the nationalist plank in the poll campaign after the Pulwama terror attack, which killed 40 CRPF personnel, that was followed by the Indian Air Force' strikes on terrorist camps in Pakistan.
The BJP has been citing 2016 surgical strikes on terror launch pads and these air strikes to assert that only a government headed by Modi will be capable of taking on Pakistan over terrorism, as it has sought to corner the Congress on the issue.
Many political pundits feel the prime minister has already launched a full-fledged campaign accusing opposition parties of coming together for the sole purpose of removing him while he is working to "remove poverty, corruption and terrorism".
He had led the NDA to a sweeping victory in 2014 as it won 336 of 543 Lok Sabha seats, reducing the incumbent Congress to its lowest total of 44 seats. The BJP on its own won a majority, a first for the party, by bagging 282 seats.
The Commission has held several review meetings across the country in last few weeks to gear up its machinery. 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.
In 2004, the Commission had announced four-phase Lok Sabha polls on February 29. While the first date of polling was April 20 and the last date was May 10.
In 2009, the EC had announced Lok Sabha poll scheduled on March 2. The five-phase polls began on April 16 and ended on May 13.
In 2014, the EC had announced the election schedule on March 5 and the nine-phase electoral exercise was spread across April and May.
While the first phase polling was on April 7, the last phase was on May 12.