The Election Commission (EC) of India has announced the general election schedule for 2019.
Indian citizens will vote for their 17th Lok Sabha in seven phases from April 11 till May 19. The counting and result is on May 23.
The current Lok Sabha’s term expires on June 3.
Voting will be held in 543 constituencies via Electronic Voting Machines and Voter Verifiable Paper Audit Trail.
The Model Code of Conduct has also come into effect.
Different parts of each state will be called to vote in different phases. Twenty-two states will finish voting in one phase alone.
West Bengal, Bihar, and Uttar Pradesh will see voting in all seven phases.
Phase 1 is on April 11 for 91 seats in constituencies of Andhra Pradesh, Arunachal Pradesh, Assam, Bihar, Chhattisgarh, Jammu and Kashmir, Maharashtra, Manipur, Meghalaya, Mizoram, Nagaland, Odisha, Sikkim, Telangana, Tripura, Uttar Pradesh, Uttarakhand, West Bengal, Andaman, and Lakshadweep.
Phase 2 for 97 seats will commence on April 18 in constituencies of Assam, Bihar, Chhattisgarh, Jammu and Kashmir, Karnataka, Maharashtra, Manipur, Odisha, Tamil Nadu, Tripura, Uttar Pradesh, West Bengal, and Puducherry.
Indians will vote for 115 seats in Phase 3 of the elections in Assam, Bihar, Chhattisgarh, Gujarat, Goa, Jammu and Kashmir, Karnataka, Kerala, Maharashtra, Odisha, Uttar Pradesh, West Bengal, Dadra and Nagar Haveli, and Damana and Diu.
As many as 71 seats will be up for grabs in the fourth phase starting on April 29 in Bihar, Jammu and Kashmir, Jharkhand, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Odisha, Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh, and West Bengal.
In Phase 5 on May 6, residents from seven states—Bihar, Jammu and Kashmir, Jharkhand, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh, and West Bengal—will line up to vote.
On May 12, Phase 6 will commence for 59 seats from the Delhi-NCT region, Bihar, Haryana, Jharkhand, Madhya Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh, and West Bengal.
Finally, on May 19, the last batch of 59 seats from Bihar, Jharkhand, Madhya Pradesh, Punjab, West Bengal, Chandigarh, Uttar Pradesh, and Himachal Pradesh will see a contest.
Model Code of Conduct
EC’s Model Code of Conduct (MCC) is now in effect and applies to all political parties and unions and state governments.
The MCC is a set of guidelines dictating conduct for candidates and parties to ensure a free and fair election. It governs general conduct, meetings, processions, polling days and booths, observers, manifestos, and the party in power.
It comes into effect the day the EC announces the election schedule and stays in force till results are declared.
The MCC states that political parties cannot use their platforms to incite hatred and violence; they also can’t appeal for votes on the basis of caste, language, and religion.
Political parties can’t use any place of worship for campaigning, states the MCC. They also can’t discuss candidates’ private lives, especially information unconnected with public work.
The MCC prohibits several offences, such as bribing, intimidating, transporting, and impersonating voters. It also bans holding public meetings within 48 hours of polling or canvassing in 100 metres of polling stations.
The EC says candidates with criminal cases against them must publish that information in the media at least thrice during the campaign period.
Political parties affiliated with such candidates also must inform voters on their website and through the media on three occasions.
Bound by strict rules
Under the MCC, party leaders must ensure that workers don’t disrupt rival parties’ activities, including rallies, meetings, and processions.
Political parties must communicate details of all rallies, meetings, and processions to the law enforcement in advance; they must also ensure that these activities don’t disrupt traffic and have all the necessary licences.
The question of whether or not election manifestos should be released prior to polling was a debate for this election because authorities were concerned that the broad promises in a manifesto can mislead and unduly influence voters.
However, the EC did not draft new guidelines for the release of manifestos.
As previously stated, parties must use their manifestos to share achievable welfare schemes while indicating how these programmes will be funded.
The party at the Centre must also adhere to all rules of the MCC.
This means BJP cannot use its position to campaign with public funds or use official channels of communication to advertise its agenda. It can’t monopolise government-granted amenities, such as transport and housing, either.
Ministers cannot club official work with campaign visits.
“Any violations of these guidelines would be strictly dealt with,” says the EC.
The EC has also directed parties to use eco-friendly materials for publicity-related items. It has also restricted the use of loudspeakers between 10 pm and 6 am and only with licences.
For security-related concerns, it has asked the Central Armed Police Force and State Armed Police to help local police maintain vigil.
The EC says citizens can use the cVIGIL app to report any MCC violations.
About the Lok Sabha
This year, voters will elect the 17th Lok Sabha, also known as the Lower House. Together, the Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha make up India’s Parliament.
The Lok Sabha has a five-year term from the date of its first meeting. However, in a state of emergency, Parliament can pass a law to extend the term, one year at a time.
The Lower House has 530 seats directly elected from state constituencies; 20 members are elected from Union Territories.
If the President feels that the Anglo-Indian community is not adequately represented, s/he has the power to nominate two Anglo-Indian members to the Lok Sabha.
Hence, the maximum strength of the Lok Sabha is 545.
According to electoral rolls published on January 1, 90 crore people are eligible to vote in this year’s Lok Sabha election.
Over 15 million voters—1.66%—are between the ages of 18 and 19. There are also over 71,000 overseas electors eligible to vote this year.
After the Supreme Court order of the termination of 88 mining leases in Goa, the state saw widespread unemployment and distaste towards the BJP.
The Congress will likely try to capitalise on this by gaining control of the two seats from Goa, a BJP stronghold, traditionally.
Although Mamata Banerjee has a firm footing in West Bengal, the state has often been a site for a face-off between her and the Centre. The BJP has tried holding rallies in WB, including the rath yatra tour that Banerjee tried to quash.
However, the Free Press Journal reports that WB’s diverse demographics will make the state one to watch for in the general elections.
Beyond politics, there are six states with a large number of seats that could make or break it for the two major parties; these are Uttar Pradesh (80), Maharashtra (48), West Bengal (42), Tamil Nadu (39), Bihar (38), and Madhya Pradesh and Karnataka (27 each).
Gujarat and Rajasthan also have a large number of seats up for grabs—26 and 23, respectively.
Of the Union Territories, Delhi-NCT region has the maximum—seven.
Rhea Arora is a staff writer at Qrius.