India Goes To Poll

New Delhi, Mar 16 (ANI): Chief Election Commissioner Rajiv Kumar addresses the press conference announcing the dates for the Lok Sabha polls, which will be held in 7 phases from 19th April to 1st June, in New Delhi on Saturday. Election Commissioners Sukhbir Singh Sandhu and Gyanesh Kumar are also seen. (ANI Photo/Shrikant Singh)

Simultaneous election for Lok Sabha and assembly will be held in four states — Sikkim, Odisha, Arunachal Pradesh and Andhra Pradesh. J&K, which has been under President’s Rule since 2018, was not on the list

The 2024 general election in India for 543 Lok Sabha seats will be held in seven phases that will begin from April 19 and continue till June 1, Chief Election Commissioner Rajiv Kumar said today, announcing the commencement of the world’s largest democratic exercise in which the BJP would attempt to win a third consecutive term in power. The results of the election will be announced on June 4.

Simultaneous election for Lok Sabha and assembly will be held in four states — Sikkim, Odisha, Arunachal Pradesh and Andhra Pradesh.  Jammu and Kashmir, which has been under President’s Rule since 2018, was not on the list.

Assembly elections in Jammu and Kashmir will be held soon after the Lok Sabha polls, Mr Kumar said. Simultaneous election was not viable due to shortage of security personnel, he added, pointing out that the Commission has to provide security to every member who would contest in the assembly polls in Jammu and Kashmir.

By-elections will also be held for 26 assembly seats across multiple states, including Bihar, Gujarat, Haryana, Jharkhand, Maharashtra, Rajasthan and Tamil Nadu.

Kumar, announcing the dates, sent out a strong message on the circulation of fake news on social media, saying political parties should ensure responsible social media behaviour — “verify before you amplify”.

“Fake news will be dealt with severely as per existant laws.. Section 79 (3)(B) of the IT Act empowers nodal officers in each state to remove unlawful content,” he said.

The other strong message was on violation of model code in terms of hate speeches. “There should be issue-based campaign, no hate speeches, no speeches along caste or religious lines, no criticism of anyone’s personal lives,” he said.

The media must clarify when they carry political adverts, those cannot masquerade as news, he said. Individual messages regarding this would be sent to the candidates, he added.

The commission has employed 2,100 advisors to keep an eye on these issues and strong action will be taken regarding this, he said.

Voters above the age of 85 years and persons with disabilities, with 40 per cent disability can vote from home, Kumar said. Around 82 lakh voter are above the age of 85, he said.

The announcement of election come days after Election Commissioner Arun Goel quit, leaving the three-member Commission with only the Chief Election Commissioner.

Asked about the matter, Kumar said, “Arun was a very distinguished member of the team and I thoroughly enjoyed working with him. But in every institution, one must be given personal space. So if he has given personal reasons, respect it”.

On Thursday, a committee headed by Prime Minister Narendra Modi named two retired Indian Administrative Service (IAS) officers — Sukhbir Singh Sandhu and Gyanesh Kumar – as Election Commissioners. They took oath the next day.

The Model Code of Conduct (MCC) has come into effect from Saturday after the Election Commission of India announced the dates for elections to the Lok Sabha and four state assemblies, with Chief Election Commissioner Rajiv Kumar asking all political parties and their leaders to strictly adhere to the poll code.

According to the set of guidelines issued by the EC (Election Commission), no party or candidate shall indulge in any activity which may aggravate existing differences or create mutual hatred or cause tension between different castes and communities, religious or linguistic.

It lists out the dos and don’ts regarding general conduct, meetings, processions, conduct of parties and their candidates on polling day, polling booth, observers, party in power and guidelines on election manifestos.

According to the guidelines, all parties and candidates shall avoid scrupulously all activities which are “corrupt practices” and offences under the election law, such as bribing of voters, intimidation of voters, impersonation of voters, canvassing within 100 meters of polling stations, holding public meetings during the period of 48 hours ending with the hour fixed for the close of the poll, and the transport and conveyance of voters to and from polling station.

The poll body said that organizing demonstrations or picketing before the houses of individuals by way of protesting against their opinions or activities shall not be resorted to under any circumstances.

No political party or candidate shall permit its or his followers to make use of any individual’s land, building, compound wall etc., without his permission for erecting flag-staffs, suspending banners, pasting notices, writing slogans etc.

Political parties and candidates shall ensure that their supporters do not create obstructions in or break up meetings and processions organized by other parties. Workers or sympathisers of one political party shall not create disturbances at public meetings organized by another political party by putting questions orally or in writing or by distributing leaflets of their own party. Processions shall not be taken out by one party along places at which meetings are held by another party. Posters issued by one party shall not be removed by workers of another party.

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