General Elections Declared

The Election Commission of India (ECI) has announced a seven phase election schedule for the constitution of the 17th Lok Sabha (House of People or the Lower House) of the Indian Parliament. The entire election process would be completed by the 29th of May 2019. The first phase of the polls would be on the 11th of April and the seventh and last round of polling would be held on the 19th of May 2019. The counting for all the 543 seats of the 17th Lok Sabha would be on the 23rd May 2019. The ECI also announced simultaneous state Assembly elections for the states of Andhra Pradesh, Odisha, Arunachal Pradesh and Sikkim.

The forthcoming Indian elections would be the largest and the most comprehensive polls on earth. A whopping 900 million voters would be exercising their franchise including 15.9 million first-time voters. Over 100,000 voting booths would be set up. The ECI would be assisted by the central and state authorities as well as the police forces for the smooth conduct of the biggest democratic exercise. The 100% Electronic Voting Machine (EVM) operated polls would also have paper trail of votes through the voter verified paper audit rail (VVPAT). Voters can see their vote for seven seconds and verify if the vote has been recorded in favour of the elector’s chosen candidate. The ECI has also introduced several new measures to facilitate voters which include monitoring political parties and candidates’ campaigning. The model code of conduct has come into effect. The ECI would also be monitoring social media advertisements posted by the candidates. This was announced by Mr. Sunil Arora, the Chief Election Commissioner of India.

The Election Commission of India is a statutory body entrusted with the task of conducting elections to India’s Parliament and state Assemblies. It is one of the finest institutions in the world having conducting hundreds of elections since its inception in early 1950’s. Independent India’s tryst with democracy started in 1952, when elections to the 1st Lok Sabha was held in 1952. Since then elections for the Lok Sabha and state Assemblies have taken place every five years regularly. Mid-term elections to the Lok Sabha were held in 1980, 1991, 1998 and 1999. India has seen single party governments as well as coalition governments.

The upcoming elections would be a watershed for India’s democratic journey. Today, India is an economic power-house; its democratic polity has had a huge role to play in this. The tenet of democracy is deeply rooted in India’s political system. From the grass-root (panchayat) to the apex (Parliamentary) level democratic transition of power has taken    place smoothly. Though, there have been minor aberrations in this epic journey, India’s democracy has functioned better than many others.

Politics in the country is expected to get hotter as parties and candidates would be gearing up to woo the electorate. The Indian voter is extremely smart and choosy. India has seen many upsets during earlier polls.

Many great political leaders have emerged through the process of elections; while some legends too have had to bite the dust in the electoral battle. The upcoming elections would see many new candidates throwing their hats into the electoral arena. Political parties at the national and state level as well as huge number of ‘independents’ would be participating in the coming polls. Successive elections have seen record number of ‘independent’ candidates contesting but their winning ratio at the national level has never been too high.

The successful completion of the general elections would add another feather to the cap of the Election Commission of India and also to India’s democratic system. The Indian voter would once again be at the centre of the election process. The Indian voter’s time-tested belief in democracy would once again be strengthened through the exercise.

Script: Padam Singh, Air: News Analyst