A gigantic numbers game
The grand battle for Raisina Hill has begun, and it will involve preparations on an unprecedented scale. The Election Commission’s announcement of five-phase Lok Sabha polls beginning April 16 means that men and equipment will have to be ferried across states for a month, a logistical nightmare. A total of 71.4 crore voters will exercise franchise through 11 lakh EVMs. In the last elections, there were 67.1 crore voters. In the first phase, 124 Lok Sabha constituencies will go to polls followed by 141 in the second phase on April 23, 107 constituencies in the third phase on April 30, 85 constituencies in the fourth phase on May 7 and 86 seats in the final phase on May 13. An exception has been made in case of Manipur where the second phase poll will take place on April 22. CEC N Gopalaswami explained that it was done since the next day is a holiday in the state. Elections in 499 out of 543 constituencies will take place on the basis of delimitation except in Arunachal Pradesh, Assam, J&K, Jharkhand, Manipur and Nagaland. Due to delimitation, number of Scheduled Caste constituencies has gone up to 84 from 79 and Scheduled Tribe seats from 41 to 47. Also, for the first time, photo electoral rolls will be used in 522 parliamentary constituencies as well as in all the legislative assembly constituencies in Andhra Pradesh, Sikkim and Orissa. One of the critical factors in deciding the poll schedule is the availability of central paramilitary forces and this round of polls will see the deployment of 21 lakh security personnel. This includes men drawn from the state police and auxiliary forces like Home Guards. The nuts and bolts of the polling exercise will be taken care by around 40 lakh civil officials, largely drawn from government services.