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Polls only after Gopalswami's exit

By A Correspondent in Delhi
February 17, 2009 18:56 IST
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The Lok Sabha elections will take place in four phases, like in 2004. A tentative poll calendar has been drawn up for the polling only after Chief Election Commissioner N Gopalaswami retires on April 20.

The Deputy Election Commissioners have drawn up three different sets of the tentative schedule in consultation with the states' chief election officers. One provides for the polling on April 20, 26, May 5 and 10, but the finality will come only after the full bench of the Election Commission sits down to consider all aspects and fixes the schedule, the EC sources said.

Gopalaswami appears reconciled to Election Commissioner Navin Chawla succeeding him, after getting clear hints from friends in the bureaucracy that the government is not prepared to accept his recommendation to sack Chawla, sources said.

They said he wanted the schedule drawn up in a manner that he announces it but he is not there as the CEC when the polls take place. Different sets of schedule has been prepared as per this wish.

Scared of any new trouble in store from Gopalaswami that impacts the Lok Sabha elections, the government is contemplating appointing an Election Commissioner later this month to have a four-member Election Commission until the date of his exit.

Code of Conduct: The announcement of the elections and the dates will be made in the first week of March, may be on March 4 or 5, the date from which the election code of conduct will apply to all parties and the governments, the sources said. The assembly polls in Andhra Pradesh will also take place simultaneously in two phases while the Orissa assembly elections will be a one-day affair.

The Election Commission was originally inclined to conduct the polls in seven to nine phases in view of the home ministry expressing difficulty to spare more central para-military forces for the poll duty in view of heightened security scenario post-26/11.

Most of the political parties, however, pressed for completing the elections in a minimum number of phases and in a short duration during a meeting held by the Election Commission here on February 3 for consultations. Hence, the Commission decided to complete the polls within three weeks in four phases, the sources said.

The DEC;s are since busy consulting the state chief minsters through video-conferencing to work out various parameters.

On Tuesday, the Election Commission's three-member full bench, chaired by Gopalaswami, examined and finalised the programme in the four southern states, based on the movement of the para-military forces. The deputies were asked to get in touch with the home ministry for increasing the deployment of these forces for the poll duty.
"We are also getting in touch with the Railway Board and the civil aviation ministry, with a request to coordinate lifting of the para-military forces from one place to another," an Election Commission official said.

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A Correspondent in Delhi