New Delhi: The Election Commission will soon announce its schedule for the high-voltage Lok Sabha elections, which is likely to be spread over 7-8 phases in April-May, sources said on Thursday.
Sources said the poll panel is in final stages of completing its logistical preparations to hold elections for the 17th Lok Sabha and a detailed polling schedule could be announced as early this weekend or by early next week. The term of the present Lok Sabha ends on June 3.
The announcement of dates for the elections, in which Prime Minister Narendra Modi will make his bid to return to power amid hectic parleys by several political parties to put a united fight against the ruling BJP, would be followed by a meeting of election observers next week for the first and second phase of polling.
A senior Election Commission functionary said the poll panel is now prepared to announce the dates "any day" and it could happen over the weekend or at most by Tuesday.
Notification for the first phase could be issued by the end of March for voting some time in early April, sources suggested. There is a strong possibility that the EC may go by the precedent and hold assembly elections in Andhra Pradesh, Odisha, Sikkim and Arunachal Pradesh along with the Lok Sabha polls.
Since the Jammu and Kashmir Assembly has been dissolved, the EC is bound to hold fresh polls there as well 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 poling 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 EC 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 EC 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.