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State goes to polls on April 9

Nine-phase general elections in April-May  lResults on May 16

A grafitti put up by the  State  Election Department on a city wall. (ST)
A graffiti put up by the State Election Department on a city wall. (ST)

New Delhi: Election to the 543 parliamentary constituencies in the country will be held in the longest-ever nine-phase beginning April 7, while results will be declared in a single day on May 16, the Election Commission announced on Wednesday.
Over 81.4 crore electorates will vote over nine days – April 7, April 9, April 10, April 12, April 17, April 24, April 30, May 7 and May 12 – to elect new members to the 16th Lok Sabha. However, most of the Northeastern states including Meghalaya will be covered in just three days beginning on April 7, barring Sikkim, which will see simultaneous Lok Sabha and Assembly elections on April 12.
Besides Sikkim, Odisha and Andhra Pradesh will also elect new assemblies, Chief Election Commissioner VS Sampath announced while unveiling the staggered election schedule in New Delhi on Wednesday.
The first phase of election on April 7 will cover six Lok Sabha constituencies in Assam and Tripura, while the second phase on April 9 will cover seven constituencies in four states including two in Meghalaya, two in Arunachal Pradesh and one each in Manipur, Mizoram and Nagaland.
The biggest state Assam with 14 seats which is more than the combined Lok Sabha seats of all the rest six Northeast states will witness three phase polling on April 7, 12 and 24.
Tripura and Manipur are the only Northeastern states which will have two phase polling on April 7 and 12 even though both states have just two seats each, ostensibly due to security concerns.
92 constituencies will go to polls in 14 states on the third day on April 10, while a small number of five seats in three states will be covered on the fourth day on April 12. The largest chunk of 122 Lok Sabha seats will go to polls in 13 states on April 17, the fifth day of poll, while the sixth day will witness polling in 117 seats in 12 states on April 24.
The seventh day of polling on April 30 will choose representatives in 89 constituencies spread over nine states and the penultimate day on May 7 will cover 64 seats in seven states. Polling will conclude on the ninth day on May 12 with elections in 41 constituencies in three states.
Hundreds of thousands of security personnel will be deployed during the polls to ensure peaceful exercise of franchise in the North East region which is a haven for numerous militant outfits.
Flanked by Election Commissioners HS Brahma and SNA Zaidi, Sampath announced that the Model Code of Conduct for political parties and governments comes into force with immediate effect.
Calling it yet another milestone in the history of Indian democracy, Sampath appealed to political parties and candidates to uphold the democratic traditions of the nation by maintaining high standards of political discourse and fair play in the course of their election campaigns.
The Election Commission also promised ‘free, fair and credible elections’.
In a significant development, the poll panel announced that voters will be free to reject all available candidates and go for ‘None of the Above’ option – a provision made available in the November-December assembly polls in five states.
About 9,30,000 polling stations – a 12 per cent rise from 2009 – will be set up across the country to ensure smooth conduct of the polls.
Sampath said the election schedule was arrived at after taking into view factors such as school examinations, monsoon, harvesting season and local festivals.

Peace pact with ANVC faces poll hurdle

SHILLONG: The announcement of the poll date has created hurdles for the finalisation of peace pact with ANVC, ANVC (B) factions and initiation of peace talks with GNLA.
While the peace pact with both the factions of ANVC is yet to get the clearance of the Union Cabinet, there is no breakthrough on the proposed peace talks between the Government and GNLA.
With Wednesday’s poll date announcement, any move on the part of the Government to engage GNLA in truce will be interpreted as violation of model code.
It was to boost the prospects of the Congress ahead of the Assembly elections held last year, that the Congress led coalition Government had hurriedly called the ANVC and ANVC-B groups to sign a draft tripartite peace pact with both the State and the Centre on January 5 last year.
The major defect of the pact was there was no ceasefire agreement with ANVC-B unlike the 2004 truce  agreement between the parent group, ANVC and the Government.
Though the Assembly election result was favourable to the Congress in Garo Hills, the peace pact did not reach its logical conclusion even after a year.
Now, with the Election Commission announcing the poll date, the move of the State Government to sign the final peace pact at the earliest, will get delayed.
The Union Cabinet is yet to approve the draft peace pact as it is still pending with the political affairs committee of the cabinet headed by the Prime Minister.
Only the next Union Cabinet after the formation of the new Government will take a call on the peace pact. Moreover, there will be further delay on the matter as the Parliament has to amend the Constitution to increase the seats in all the three Autonomous District Councils as agreed by the Government following the demand of ANVC.
Anticipating the signing of peace pact, the Government had extended the tenure of Garo Hills Autonomous District Council for six months on January 8 this year.
However, the critics of the Government have pointed out that there was no need to extend the tenure of GHADC and the elections should have been held together  with the just concluded KHADC-JHADC polls since there will be no increase of seats in Councils from the current 29 seats pending the amendment of the Constitution by the Parliament.

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