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9-stage election saves time
Three days less than in 2009

New Delhi, March 5: Polling for the 16th Lok Sabha will be spread over nine days, the highest so far, but the schedule that appears long-drawn has reduced the time frame by three days in comparison to the last elections in 2009, the Election Commission said today.

The elections will be spread over a month from April 7 to May 12 and the results would be out on May 16. The entire process, from the announcement of elections to counting, will take 72 days. In 2009, it took 75 days.

“This should not be viewed as phases. They are poll days,” chief election commissioner V.S. Sampath said.

Sampath chose to use the word “poll days” and not “phases” in a bid to avoid the impression of an unduly long election as 2009 had five polling days while this time it has virtually doubled to nine.

“A nine-phase election gives the impression of a very long-drawn election. So we chose to call it poll days,” said a poll panel official.

The politically volatile states in the eastern and northern region would have the most staggered election. In Uttar Pradesh and Bihar, which together account for 120 Lok Sabha seats, polling would be held in six stages spread over a month from April 10 to May 12.

Sampath said the polling dates were finalised after considering the deployment of security forces, weather conditions, the harvest season, religious festivals and school exams as most polling stations are located in school buildings.

“Credible elections conducted at regular, prescribed intervals are the very soul, or hallmark, of any democratic system,” Sampath said.

The introduction of electronic voting and staggered phases over the past decade has dramatically decreased fraud on polling days.

Sampath said curbing the “use of money power” in the elections was a big challenge and “flying squads” and static surveillance teams would keep watch on the distribution of cash to voters. Income tax and government financial agencies have been asked to keep vigil on movement of cash, he said.

Although the final rolls with January 1, 2014, as the cut-off for the qualifying date have been prepared, Sampath said the commission would conduct a special drive across the country on March 9 to include those left out.

“The commission has directed that a special camp shall be organised at all polling stations on March 9. If the name of any person eligible to be enrolled is left out for some reason or has been wrongly deleted (they) can apply,” Sampath said. Voters can check whether their names have been included in the electoral rolls through the web, through an SMS on a number provided by the state election office and also by checking the rolls to be pasted on polling stations.

Sampath urged political parties and leaders not to violate the model code of conduct while campaigning.

Assembly elections in Andhra Pradesh, Odisha and Sikkim would be held on the day of the Lok Sabha vote.

Asked about the division of Andhra, Sampath said elections in the undivided state would not hinder the bifurcation process. “The elected members from constituencies falling in Telangana would be Telangana legislators and those from Andhra Pradesh would be elected members of that state. It would be a seamless arrangement,” he said.