The high-stake Lok Sabha elections pitting Narendra Modi and Rahul Gandhi in a virtual presidential-style contest with a number of other PM aspirants thrown in will be held between April 7 and May 12 on nine days, the highest number of phases so far.
Counting of votes in all the 543 constituencies involving an electorate of 81.4 crore will be done on May 16, Chief Election Commissioner VS Sampath announced on Wednesday at a press conference releasing the election schedule.
Assembly elections will also be held simultaneously in the states of Andhra Pradesh, including the Telangana region, Odisha and Sikkim.
Flanked by Election Commissioners HS Brahma and SNA Zaidi, Sampath was at pains to explain the difference between nine polling days and phases, saying the whole process from today to counting of votes on May 16 would be over in 72 days, three days less than it took in the last elections. The Model Code of Conduct for parties and governments comes into force with immediate effect, he said.
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 first polling day on April 7 will cover six Lok Sabha constituencies in two states — Assam and Tripura — while the second on April 9 will cover seven constituencies in five states — Arunachal Pradesh, Manipur, Meghalaya, Mizoram and Nagaland.
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 polling, 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 eighth 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.
The battleground state of Uttar Pradesh with the maximum of 80 seats that can tilt the scales will go to polls on six days on April 10, 17,