Seven-phase polls in five states from Feb 10

New Delhi: The Election Commission of India today announced dates for Assembly elections in Uttar Pradesh, Goa, Manipur, Punjab and Uttarakhand.

Chief Election Commissioner Sushil Chandra told in a presser the Assembly elections in the five states will be held in seven phases. Polls will begin from February 10 till March 7 in phases.

Counting of votes will carried out on March 10, informed Chandra.

Uttar Pradesh will go to poll in seven phases from February 10 to March 7; Punjab, Uttarakhand and Goa to vote on February 14 and Manipur to vote on February 27 and March 3, Chandra stated.

The Model Code of Conduct (MCC) comes into effect immediately from announcement of the schedules. The Election Commission of India has made elaborate arrangements for ensuring effective implementation of the MCC guidelines. Any violation of these guidelines will be strictly dealt with, said the Chief Election Commissioner.

He further said no physical political rallies and roadshows will be allowed till January 15, 2022. Also, no padyatras, cycle or bike rallies and processions shall be allowed till January 15, stated Chandra adding that situation will be reviewed and fresh instructions to be issued later.

Chandra added it is mandatory for political parties to upload on their website detailed information regarding individuals with pending criminal cases selected as poll candidates. They will also have to give a reason to select the candidate.

All election officials and employees will be considered as frontline workers and will be administered with ‘precautionary dose’, the CEC mentioned.

Senior citizens above 80 years of age, persons with disabilities and COVID-19 patients can vote by postal ballot.

The final electoral rolls were published on January 5. There are a total of 18.34 crore voters, including service voters. Of these, 8.55 crore are women. The EC has made an effort to increase the number of voters and as a result, all states have seen an increase, with the maximum voter increase in Uttar Pradesh.

There are a total of 24.5 lakh first time electors and 30.47 lakh senior citizens. The EC has capped the number of voters per booth to 1,250, resulting in an increase in the number of polling stations to 30,334 as the average number of voters per polling booth has decreased.

Invoking Aarticle 171 (1), Chandra said that the Assembly tenure has to end in five years and, therefore, elections are necessary.

As per the Covid protocols for conducting elections, all elections officials will be double vaccinated, will be given a booster dose and will also be treated as frontline workers. Booths would be fully sanitised and there will be adequate gloves, sanitizers etc for the polling staff.

More than 15 crore people in the five poll-bound states have received the first dose of the vaccine, while nine crore people have received both the shots.

Polling time has been increased by one hour in all the states.

At least one booth in each Assembly constituency will be managed exclusively by women, Chandra said.

“It will now be mandatory to publish criminal records of candidates minimum three times in local newspapers and television channels. Even the parties are expected to do so with their candidates,” he said.

Earlier, Chandra said that the Commission has set out three goals for these elections: Covid-free elections, hassle-free voting experience and maximum participation by voters.

The preparations have been going on for at least six months with EC teams visiting poll-bound states.

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