Voting for the 2019 Lok Sabha elections will start on 11 April, the Election Commission said on Sunday, announcing a 7-phase schedule for the world’s biggest democratic exercise. Four states, Andhra Pradesh, Odisha, Sikkim and Arunachal Pradesh, will also vote for new provincial governments.
The contest for 543 Lok Sabha seats pits the ruling BJP’s Narendra Modi against Rahul Gandhi-led Congress party which is attempting to work with regional parties to try stopping PM Modi’s return to power. PM Modi – the second non-Congress Prime Minister after Atal Bihari Vajpayee to complete a full term in office – is making a strong pitch for his re-election.
How it pans out in the end, will be known on 23 May when the Election Commission says, the votes will be counted. Nearly 900 million voters are entitled to vote, many of them will be voting for the first time in the national elections and have been the focus of PM Modi and Rahul Gandhi’s campaigns.
“The festival of democracy, Elections are here,” tweeted Prime Minister Narendra Modi minutes after the Election Commission announced the poll schedule, urging people to participate in the poll process. “I hope this election witnesses a historic turnout. I particularly call upon first-time voters to vote in record numbers,” PM Modi said, reinforcing his outreach to young voters.
The Election Commission said 91 constituencies spread across 20 states will see polling on April 11, 97 constituencies in 13 states on April 18, 115 seats in 14 states on April 23, 71 seats in 9 states on April 29, 51 seats in 7 states on May 6, 59 seats in 7 states on May 12 and 59 constituencies in 8 states on May 19.
The poll process will be stretched across seven phases in Uttar Pradesh and West Bengal. In 22 states, it will be held on a single day.
“While finalizing the election dates, exam schedules of state examination boards, CBSE, various festivals including festivals which have religious, harvest season in other department are also adequately factored in,” said Chief Election Commissioner Sunil Arora at a media conference.
The announcement of the poll schedule kicks in the ground rules for the contest, called the model code of conduct designed to create a level-playing field for opposition parties.
The code prohibits governments from making any announcement that could influence the voters and gives the poll panel, the power to transfer any official associated with the election process across India.