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EC's sudden leave delays LS poll announcement

By By a Delhi correspondent
February 28, 2009 15:46 IST
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The official announcement of the Lok Sabha election schedule, tentatively scheduled on Sunday, has been delayed as Election Commissioner Navin Chawla has taken a two-day leave. The sudden move has triggered speculations that the EC was biding for more time, to give the United Progressive Alliance government an opportunity to continue its advertisements, before the model code of conduct comes into force with the announcement of the poll schedule.

The poll schedule might be announced on Tuesday or Wednesday, after Chawla, Chief Election Commissioner N Gopalaswami and Election Commissioner S Y Qureshi formally hold a meeting and decide the dates and the phases of the LS polls.

The Election Commission also has to decide on the poll dates for Andhra Pradesh, Orissa and Sikkim

CEC Gopalaswami could have declared the poll dates after consultations with Qureshi, but he has decided to wait for Chawla's return, said sources.

As per the tentative schedule discussed by the CEC and the two ECS, the Lok Sabha polls will be held between April 12 and May 12, in six or seven phases.

Nobody in the Election Commission was willing to comment on the motive behind Chawla's sudden leave. The Centre has already indicated that it will not remove Chawla, as per Gopalaswami's recommendations, and the controversial EC will take over as CEC after the latter's retirement on April 20.

Leaders of the Bhartiya Janata Party have demanded that President Pratibha Patil clarify her stand on the issue before the poll process kicks off.

The BJP is hopeful that the LS polls would be held in Lucknow on April 12, which happens to be the birthday of Lalji Tandon, the party candidate for the constituency.

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By a Delhi correspondent