Poll dates have been announced. Bengaluru is waiting to show the power of the voters. The nine-phase timeline will have the polls scheduled in Karnataka on April 17th, 2014. The counting will happen on May 16th, 2014 across the country.
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In the world’s largest democracy, about 81,00,00,000 voters will decide the 543 leaders who will represent them in the 16th Lok Sabha. Karnataka has 28 Lok Sabha seats and Bangalore has three seats.
The Election Commission (EC) on its website has begun announcements for the Lok Sabha elections. Letters have been sent out to the Chief Secretaries and Chief Election Officers (CEO) of the States regarding transfer of officers. Letters have also been sent to various CEOs on concession to registered unrecognised political parties on party symbols.
The EC has increased campaign expenditure for a candidate from 40 Lakhs to 70 Lakhs. This has been done after consultations with experts and party representatives, it is a 75% increase. Poll expenses must include expenses for social media and website used as publicity tools.
On February 4th an all party meet held to discuss the polls and on February 20th a meeting was held with the Chief Secretaries and Police officers setting the ball rolling for the forthcoming elections.
In a first of its kind the EC has directed the parties to watch what they promise the electorate. Election manifestos will come under the model code of conduct and parties have to explain freebies doled out. The Supreme Court in July 2013 had noted that “It will be misleading to construe that all promises in a manifesto amount to a corrupt practice” but also held that “It shakes the root of free and fair elections to a large degree”. The parties did protest claiming that making promises was their right but they were directed to explain the rationale behind the promises of freebies and how they will meet the financial requirements to fulfill these promises. The EC has given the parties till February 7th to respond. Most political parties stand united and have opposed this directive. Barring the CPI(M), RJD and SDP none of the other parties, including AAP even bothered to respond yet.
In October last year the Supreme Court directed the EC to introduce, in a phased manner, a Voter Verifier Paper Audit Trail (VVPAT) with the Electronic Voting Machines (EVM) saying it was an indispensable requirement for free, fair and transparent polls and also that it will ensure the accuracy of the voting system and can be manually counted in case of dispute.
The SC directed the EC to set up the None of The Above Option (NOTA) in the electronic voting machines thereby changing the dynamics of elections as we knew it. The EC said this will not change the outcome of an election as the candidate with the most number of votes will still be the winner. For the NOTA votes to be considered in the poll outcome, the law will have to be amended.
On NOTA, the SC refused to direct the EC to hold fresh polls incase majority of the voters exercised the NOTA option. The SC said that this was a new exercise and it has to be seen how the people respond to it and it the petitioner wanted a law change he would have to give a representation to the government. This means the outcome of the election will not change. But the EC added that it would take appropriate steps to compile the number of voters who opt for NOTA in a particular constituency. Many agree that this is a big change in the long run and it informs candidates they are “not worthy” of votes and in future compel political parties to field sound candidates.
The SC also directed the Centre and EC to file a response as to allow defence personnel to vote in their constituency where they are posted.
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