A stretched exercise

The Election Commission of India has done well to announce an elaborate poll schedule for the 16th Lok Sabha so that the new House can be constituted well before the term of the present House expires.

A massive 81.4 crore-strong electorate is eligible to vote in the elections which will be conducted over an unprecedented nine phases. Simultaneous polling will also be held for the Assemblies of Andhra Pradesh, Odisha and Sikkim. While one can understand the EC’s compulsion to phase out the polls considering the logistics of moving security forces in a country as large as India, stretching it over nearly five weeks is incomprehensible. As the counting of votes is to be taken up together only on May 16, many of the states which have early polls have to wait for over a month to know the results, which is bizarre to say the least.

A state like Uttar Pradesh, where violence during elections has considerably come down over the years, will see polling over six phases, each phase having a week’s gap. Imagine those who exercise their franchise in the first phase on April 7 waiting till May 16 for the results! The lengthy duration would also mean an increase in the poll expenditure, something that the poll panel is so desperate to reduce. For the political parties and candidates too, sustained campaigning in peak summer is a tough proposition. It would be no surprise if the longer duration results in voter fatigue. The schedule could have been compressed in five phases as done in 2009 without compromising on free and fair polls.

On the positive side, the paper trail and NOTA (None Of The Above) would be the new features on the electronic voting machines in this elections, while the poll expenditure for candidates has been increased to a maximum of Rs 70 lakh for Lok Sabha and Rs 28 lakh for Assembly elections. The voters in the newly carved state of Telangana would be disappointed as they would not vote for new state and polling would be held for the united Andhra Pradesh. However, the new Telangana Assembly is slated to meet separately after the polls.

The new Lok Sabha should meet before May 31 which means that the new government which is supposed to administer the country for the next five years should be installed before this date. The successful political party or the combination of parties will get nearly two weeks for the government formation which, even in case of a hung parliament, should be deemed sufficient.

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