Assembly polls for 5 States in Feb-March; counting March 11

  • Uttar Pradesh, Uttara Khand, Punjab, Goa and Manipur to have new Houses

Special Correspondent

New Delhi: The biggest poll exercise of 2017 has begun. Elections will be held in Uttar Pradesh, Uttara Khand, Punjab, Goa and Manipur in February and March. All the five States will go to polls in one go and will be held from a single phase to seven phases. Chief Election Commissioner Nasim Zaidi announced the schedule in New Delhi on Wednesday for the Assembly elections.

Voting will take place in a single phase in Punjab, Goa and Uttarakhand, while Manipur will have two phases of voting, and Uttar Pradesh will have seven phases of voting. Counting of votes for all States will be taken up on March 11. According to the schedule, Goa and Punjab will go to polls on February 4; Uttarakhand on February 15; Manipur on March 4 (first phase 38 seats) and on March 8 (second phase 22 seats). In Uttar Pradesh, the seven-phase election will take place on February 11, 15, 19, 23, 27 and on March 4 and 8. More than 16 crore voters would be exercising their right to vote in these elections.

In view of the announcement, the budget presentation may have to be postponed. In 2012, the budget was pushed back.  The Goa and Punjab are scheduled to go for polls on the same day, February 4, thus putting pressure on the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) which has fair chances of win in both the States and its attention would be divided because of this decision by the Election Commission.  The Commission may be questioned why it waited until Prime Minister Narendra Modi addressed the nation on the eve of the New Year.

The UP will have seven phases of voting for the 403 seats. Phase one notification will be given on January 17. The first phase of polling in UP for 73 seats will be on February 11. The second phase will cover 67 constituencies where the polling would be held on February 15. The phase three will have 69 seats and the voting would be on February 19. The fourth phase of voting will be on February 23.   The phase five will have 52 constituencies in 11 districts and polling would take place on February 27. The sixth phase will have polling on March 4 for 49 seats. The seventh phase will have polling on March 8 for the remaining 40 seats. The counting of votes will be held on March 11 for all the seats in all the five States that are going to polls.  

Polls will be conducted in 690 Assembly constituencies in five States. The model code has come into effect immediately. All expenses have to be cashless.

Nearly hundred percent of voters have voter identity cards. This offers an opportunity for the BJP to improve its footprint.  In UP, the biggest State in the country, with 403 Assembly seats, there are 13.96 crore voters. In other four States, Goa has 40 Assembly seats; Manipur 60, Punjab 117 and Uttarakhand 70. The total number of voters in the five States is 16 crores. There will be 185,000 polling stations in the five States. For the first time the ballot papers will have the photos of the contestants. Loud speakers are not allowed in the campaign. Every candidate will have to give an undertaking that he or she is an Indian. Social media is allowed to be used in the campaign. Rs 28 lakhs is the expenditure limit per candidate in one Assembly constituency in Punjab, UP and Uttarakhand. In Goa and Manipur the cap would be Rs 20 lakhs.

The Election Commission has given instructions to the monitors to observe the amount of publicity given to the candidates of the political parties on the TV channels owned by the parties. The publicity will be considered as advertisement. The Commission will keep a strict watch on paid news.

The Chief Election Commissioner said he would take decision on the request for allotment of symbol by both the factions of the Samajwadi Party at an appropriate time. He expressed the hope that the use of black money would come down due to the measures being taken by the Commission. 

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