New Delhi: The schedule for the 2014 Lok Sabha elections will be announced by the Election Commission at 10:30 am on Wednesday. It is likely to be a six or seven phase poll and may begin from the first week of April.
With the announcement of poll dates, the Model Code of Conduct for governments and political parties will come into force with immediate effect. Therefore, once elections are announced, the Cabinet will no longer be able to take key decisions.
The schedule will be announced at a press conference by Chief Election Commissioner VS Sampath along with two Election Commissioners HS Brahma and SNA Zaidi. The conference this time is being held at Vigyan Bhawan instead of at Nirvachan Bhawan, the EC headquarters.
As of now, the plan is to have the voting exercise involving an electorate of 81 crore in six to seven phases. The 2009 polls were held in five phases from April 16 to May 13.
The term of the current Lok Sabha expires on June 1 and the new House has to be constituted by May 31. Along with the Lok Sabha election, Andhra Pradesh, including the regions comprising Telangana, Odisha and Sikkim will go to polls to elect new assemblies. It could be the first time the country witnesses elections over such a long period in six or seven phases.
Sources said that the attempt is to "maximise" the use of forces and the polling days. In the first phase, polling is expected to be held in some of the Naxal-hit states and in some Northeastern states.
For the first time in Parliamentary polls, a system of paper trail for electronic voting will be introduced in some constituencies on a trial basis. There have been demands that a paper trail should be in place so that a fool-proof record is created and controversies avoided in case of a dispute or an election petition filed in courts.
The Commission has also issued guidelines to political parties asking them to explain the rationale of financing the promises they make in their election manifestos. The guidelines that followed Supreme Court directions in this regard have now been made part of the Model Code.
An estimated 81.4 crore voters will be eligible to vote in the coming elections after 9.71 crore new voters have been added to the rolls since the last elections. From the coming elections, candidates in a Parliamentary constituency in bigger states can spend up to Rs 70 lakh on their campaign, up from Rs 40 lakh in 2011. In the 2009 elections, it was Rs 25 lakh.
Another first in the Lok Sabha elections will be the introduction of "None of the Above" (NOTA) option in voting, which came into vogue in the assembly elections a few months ago. The electoral rolls are ready after being updated with January 1 this year as the cut-off date.
A total of 1.1 crore poll personnel, half of them being security forces, will be deployed for the smooth conduct of polls and to ensure that they are free and fair. Poll officials said the database of the civilian staff to be deployed for conducting polls has been prepared and at least 5.5 million civilian staff would be deployed.
The list of central government employees to be deployed for poll duty as micro-observers in sensitive polling stations has also been prepared.
(With additional information from PTI)