Just as the suspense is building over the schedule of the much-awaited Lok Sabha elections, the Election Commission of India is expected to come out with the crucial dates anytime soon.
According to media reports, the poll panel may announce the poll schedule over the weekends, may be even today, or early next week.
The Election Commission is set to have finalised the dates of the polls and also concluded preparatory meetings. Also, it was scheduled to hold a crucial meeting on Saturday to discuss the final modalities of the parliamentary polls.
On Friday, PTI had a quoted a senior official saying that the Election Commission is prepared to list dates for Lok Sabha polls “any day” and an announcement could come over the weekend or by Tuesday.
The elections are likely to be held over seven or eight phases in April-May, sources said on Thursday.
The announcement of dates will be followed by a meeting of election observers next week for the first and second phase of polling.
A notification for the first phase could be issued by the end of March for voting in early April, sources said.
There is a strong possibility that the commission may go by the precedent and hold assembly elections in Andhra Pradesh, Odisha, Sikkim and Arunachal Pradesh along with the Lok Sabha polls.
The commission has to decide about Jammu and Kashmir where there the Assembly has been dissolved and the law says elections must be held within a six-month period, which will end in May.
While there is a view that the Jammu and Kashmir assembly elections can be held along with the Lok Sabha polls, but a lot depends on the complex security situation in the state given the heightened tension along the India-Pakistan border.
While the Centre and the state administration, being managed by the Centre-appointed governor, are against holding the two elections together, all political parties there favoured simultaneous polls during a meeting with the Election Commission earlier this week.
The J-K assembly's six-year term was to end on March 16, 2021, but it got dissolved after a ruling coalition between the PDP and the BJP fell apart. The other state assemblies and Lok Sabha have five-year terms.
While the term of the Sikkim Assembly ends on May 27, 2019, the terms of Andhra Pradesh, Odisha and Arunachal Pradesh assemblies end on June 18, June 11 and June 1 respectively.
The Commission has held several review meetings across the country in last few weeks to gear up its machinery.
The required electronic voting machines and paper trail machines are in place to be deployed in nearly 10 lakh polling stations across 543 Lok Sabha constituencies.
This is a high probability of the elections being spread across 7-8 phases this time. In 2004, the Commission had announced four-phase Lok Sabha polls on February 29. While the first date of polling was April 20 and the last date was May 10.
In 2009, the commission had announced Lok Sabha poll scheduled on March 2. The five-phase polls began on April 16 and ended on May 13.
In 2014, the commission had announced the election schedule on March 5 and the nine-phase electoral exercise was spread across April and May.
While the first phase polling was on April 7, the last phase was on May 12.
The term of the present Lok Sabha ends on June 3.