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LS poll in April, likely over 7-9 phases
By a Delhi Correspondent
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January 14, 2009 19:23 IST

The 15th Lok Sabha elections will be held in April-May, spread over six weeks with the largest number of seven to nine phases, setting a new record for the parliamentary elections. Tentatively, the first phase is likely on April 10 and the entire process will end on May 10, 2009.

The Election Commission has drawn up a tentative plan to announce the elections on March 10, the date from which the model code of conduct for political parties and the government comes into force.

The actual polling in phases will be from the second half of April, by which time the school examinations will be over and as such deployment of teachers on poll duties would not disrupt the academic session.

Elections are being spread to more phases since the Home Ministry has expressed its constraints in providing the central forces in sufficient number for the poll duties in view of their deployment in the anti-terror preparedness.

The same security personnel will have to move from region to region and hence the Commission worked out seven rounds of polling at the minimum, though the same may go up to nine, the Election Commission sources in New Delhi [Images] said.

They said talks have already begun at the secondary level between the Commission and Home Ministry officials on the deployment of the Central forces.

Last Parliament session from February 13

Sources said the government had informed the Commission that it intends to hold the last session of Parliament, prior to the polls, from February 13. It will be a short session of seven to ten days, closing on either February 20 or 26, primarily to pass a vote-on-account for the government budget up to June end, leaving the actual budget to be prepared by the new government elected.

The Election Commission's plan is to complete the elections and constitute the new Lok Sabha latest by June 4. The last round of polling will be over by the end of May.

Chief Election Commissioner N Gopalaswami will be demitting the office on April 20, just around the time the first phase of polling takes place.

New Chief Election Commissioner

Navin Chawla, the controversial Election Commissioner whose case is still pending with Gopalaswami for disposal as directed by the Supreme Court, will be taking over as the new CEC by virtue of his seniority, unless Gopalaswami gives an adverse recommendation to the President against him for removal from the Election Commission.

The Commission sources said Chawla is associated with all the preparations now being made for the conduct of the Lok Sabha elections and as such there will be continuity in the process that takes off before he takes over as the CEC.

The present 14th Lok Sabha had held its first session from June 2 to 10 in 2004, spending the first three days in the new members taking the oath, followed by election of the Speaker and the Deputy Speaker and the President's address to the joint session on June 7.

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