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Elections 2019: India gets a new government on 23 May

Chief election commissioner Sunil Arora (centre) and election commissioners Ashok Lavasa (left) And Sunil Chandra announced the Lok Sabha election dates in New Delhi on Sunday. (PTI)Premium
Chief election commissioner Sunil Arora (centre) and election commissioners Ashok Lavasa (left) And Sunil Chandra announced the Lok Sabha election dates in New Delhi on Sunday. (PTI)

  • Along with Lok Sabha elections, assembly polls will be conducted in four states—Odisha, Sikkim, and Arunachal and Andhra Pradesh
  • The model code of conduct (MCC) comes into effect immediately, and will be in place till election results are announced on 23 May

New Delhi: The Election Commission of India (EC) on Sunday said Lok Sabha Elections 2019 would be held in seven phases to simultaneously elect governments at the centre and in four states on 23 May. The states are Odisha, Andhra Pradesh, Sikkim and Arunachal Pradesh.

The world’s largest democratic exercise will be spread over six weeks, with polling beginning on 11 April and ending on 19 May. Along with the campaign period, the election cycle will last a little over two months. The voter base is estimated at 900 million, of which 84.2 million will cast their vote for the first time in a general election.

The term of the current Lok Sabha ends on 3 June.

The stage is now set for a showdown between the incumbent Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA) and the opposition. Besides the Congress, the principal challenger, there are several regional parties, including the Samajwadi Party (SP) and the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP). Even while the opposition is seeking common ground to rally all anti-BJP parties in its fold, the BJP led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi has already launched its campaign, highlighting its track record in office and its proactive stance on national security.

The model code of conduct (MCC), a guiding principle for political parties and electoral contestants, comes into effect immediately across the country.

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Citing security concerns, EC did not announce state polls for Jammu and Kashmir, and added that it was “closely monitoring" the situation. It also formed a three-member special observer team to assess the situation in the state. The legislative assembly was dissolved last November.

“The stakes are very high for all the political parties. While for the Congress and the opposition parties, it is a question of survival, for Prime Minister Narendra Modi, it is a ratification of his government’s record," said Sanjay Kumar, a political analyst and director of the Centre for the Study of Developing Societies. “For the BJP, it is essential to come back with an equally thumping majority to get an approval from the voters of its politics in the last five years."

It will be the first general elections in which Rahul Gandhi will be leading the Congress; he has already been declared the candidate from Amethi in Uttar Pradesh.

Key issues likely to dominate the campaign are national security, rural distress, unemployment and the government’s social welfare policies.

In 2014, the BJP had won 282 seats, with a 31% vote share, and the Congress had won 44, with a 19.31% vote share.

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The schedule for Elections 2019 marks a shift in the trend from previous national polls. While the number of phases has been reduced from nine previously, most states are witnessing more number of phases.

For instance, Bihar, Uttar Pradesh and West Bengal will have polling in all seven phases. This effectively means the states will go to the polls on each of the polling dates in the election schedule.

Also read: How battleground states will determine results of Elections 2019

“A very tiny proportion of seats will go to polls. This will be problematic, especially in the earlier phases, because campaign will be on in the rest of the large proportion of the state. The purpose of the 48-hour no-campaign period gets beaten with a schedule like this," Kumar added.

Bihar, for example, Kumar said, would see five-six Lok Sabha seats going to the polls in the early phases, as neighbouring areas continue to be in campaigning mode. This, could potentially influence voters, he added.

Also read: Elections 2019 won't throw up one result, but 29 different results

Chief election commissioner Sunil Arora said that such decisions were taken keeping in mind the security situation and movement of security personnel, among other factors.

The poll schedule was announced at a press conference in the national capital. All three top members of EC, including election commissioners Ashok Lavasa and Sushil Chandra, were present.

In an interesting move, the EC has asked candidates with criminal antecedents, or political parties fielding such candidates, to make adequate disclosures.

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