The countdown for the 2014 elections began on Wednesday with the Election Commission announcing a nine-phase schedule, the largest in independent India, from April 7 to May 12 for the Lok Sabha and Assemblies in Andhra Pradesh, Odisha and Sikkim. The mammoth process involving 81.45 crore eligible voters will pave the way for formation of the 16th Lok Sabha and a new Central government. Counting will be held on May 16.
The schedule was announced at a press meet by Chief Election Commissioner V S Sampath and Election Commissioners H S Brahma and S N A Zaidi. Sampath said the Model Code of Conduct for parties and governments — to ensure a free and fair election process — would come into force with immediate effect. The period of the Code has, however, been reduced by three days since the whole process, beginning Wednesday till the counting would be over in 72 days.
The commission gave a last chance to all eligible voters, whose names do not figure in the electoral rolls, to get registered as electors. “The EC has directed that a special camp be organised at all 9.3 lakh polling stations on March 9 for this purpose,” Sampath said. The CEC added that for the first time, the EC would be introducing the None of the Above (NOTA) option in the Lok Sabha elections. Defending the lengthy schedule, Sampath said the dates have been decided keeping in view certain factors. He did not elaborate.