SUNDAY, 25 DECEMBER 2011 00:23 PNS | NEW DELHI
The Election Commission (EC) on Saturday announced an over-a-month-long election schedule for five States beginning January 28 and ending March 3 next year.
The most politically crucial Uttar Pradesh will witness polling in seven phases stretching from February 4 to February 28, while Punjab, Uttarakhand, Manipur and Goa will go to polls in a single phase.
By choosing to round off elections in UP in February itself, the Commission upset Chief Minister Mayawati’s plans. In a bid to come one up against the election watchdog, she had advanced the dates of Uttar Pradesh Board examinations and scheduled it from March 1 to April 4 to make it difficult for the conduct of Assembly election in the most populous State in just one month in February.
Mayawati was preferring elections in April to reap the dividends of the BSP’s majority in the Assembly to send a maximum number of its candidates to the Rajya Sabha. The biennial polls to the Upper House are to be held in April.
Interestingly, the Congress had been seeking an early election, anticipating that an upward swing in its electoral fortunes in the State will help it ensure the entry of more of its candidates to the Rajya Sabha and also in the Presidential election next year. The schedule couldn’t have been better for it.
The elections will also have many firsts. From candidates requiring to open a new bank account and incurring all poll-related expenses from it — a move aimed at monitoring expenses and curbing use of black money — to candidates submitting a modified summary sheet (along with the affidavits) detailing their criminal background, assets, liabilities and educational qualifications. A 24×7 toll free number, 1950 — connoting the year the ECI took birth — will also be in place for all poll complaints.
The schedule, announced by Chief Election Commissioner (CEC) SY Quraishi flanked by two Election Commissioners VS Sampath and HS Brahma, could pose problems for the Centre too.
With the model code of conduct coming into immediate effect and to be in place till the counting of votes on March 4, major policy decisions to be announced by the Government in its forthcoming Railway Budget and Union Budget —- tabled in the last week of February every year —- may have to be held back.
When asked about a possible clash of the tabling of Budgets with the code of conduct, Quraishi said, “It is up to the Government to decide on the dates for budget. We have done our job. The Union Government will keep the dates in mind before announcing the budget.” Nevertheless, Quraishi clarified that the code of conduct would bind not only candidates, political parties but states and Central Government as well.
Former Lok Sabha Secretary General PDT Achary, however, said it would not prevent the government from going ahead with the Budgets on schedule. The only precaution it will have to take is that its Ministers do not visit in an official capacity to the particular state where assembly polls are being held or make any specific policy announcement regarding them. He said that never in the past the budget has been affected due to assembly polls in states.
Although there was no specific reason cited by the Commission to explain the seven-phased election in UP, Quraishi said the schedule has been prepared after taking into consideration climatic conditions, academic and examination schedules, festivals prevailing law and order situation in states, availability of central police forces, time needed for movement, transportation and timely deployment of forces, and assessment of other ground realities.
On the possibility of holding elections in UP during April in the light of the Board examinations in the state during March, Quraishi said, “We are not affected by the UP Board’s decision to hold examinations in March. Otherwise also, exams are not held in the state from March 1.”
Call centres functioning round the clock in the five states will take complaints and take action upon them within time limit. The complainants can view the status of their complaints on a website to be opened by the State Electoral Officer and action taken will be intimated to the complainant through SMS.
Following the controversy surrounding the “tamper-proof” electronic voting machines (EVM), the Commission said that two stages of randomized checks will be introduced. However, no paper trail will be provided since an expert committee formed by the EC was seized of the subject, Quraishi said.
There will be seven separate notifications on January 10, 12, 16, 21, 25, 28 and February 2 for the seven-phase polls in UP and nominations can be filed upto one week after the notification dates. The notifications for polls in Punjab and Uttarakhand will be issued on January 5, while it will be issued on January 4 for polls in Manipur and February 6 for Goa.
Bolt from the ballot
The elections will also have many firsts: Candidates required to open a bank account
Mayawati’s move to advance UP Board exam dates to force EC for election in April proves fiasco
In phase I, Rampur seat set to draw extra attraction; Jaya Prada will contest against SP’s Mohammad Azam Khan
In phase III, firebrand BJP MP Yogi Adityanath’s clout on Gorakhpur will be tested
Phase V election will seal the fate of BJP’s
Kalraj Mishra (Lucknow East), UPCC chief Rita Bahuguna Joshi (Lucknow Cantonment), independent MLA Raja Bhaiya (Kunda-Pratapgarh), Cong’s Pramod Tiwari
Last phase will test strength of former Chief Minister Kalyan Singh