The Election Commission on Wednesday announced poll dates for elections to five state assemblies - Uttar Pradesh, Punjab, Manipur, Goa and Uttarakhand. In a press conference, Chief Election Commissioner Nasim Zaidi said Punjab and Goa will go to February 4. In Uttarakhand elections will be held in one phase on February 15.
In Manipur, the first phase of polls will be March 4, second phase will be on 8 March.
Uttar Pradesh will go to polls in seven phases. The first phase will be held on February 11. In phase two where 11 districts of UP will go to polls will be held on 15 February. Phase three will be held in 12 districts on 19 February. Phase four will be held on 23 February, phase five will be held on 27 February, phase six on 4 March and phase seven will be on 8 March.
Counting for all five states will be held on March 11.
He said that in Uttar Pradesh and Manipur voters lists will be published on January 12, Uttarakhand on January 10, and in Goa and Punjab on January 5.
The EC said that in places where men and women don't mingle separate booths will be set up for women.
The Election Commission tried to defend its decision of holding polls soon after Union Budget but somewhat contradicted itself in the process. Zaidi told reporters that the commission had indeed received one representation from a political party with regard to the budget.
"We are examining it and will also go through the established procedure and the commission will take a decision," he said. Later, however, he said that "all factors have been taken into account" when the polling dates were decided.
The Chief Election Commissioner also underlined that EC is a autonomous body. The Election Commission has mind of its own, he said.
"Over 160 million voters to participate in the elections in the five states," Zaidi said.
"There will be complete accountability of photo voter slips, colourful voter guides will be distributed to each family," he said.
"For the first time, every polling station will have a 'Voter Assistance' booth," he said.
The Election Commission had on Tuesday held a meeting with Chief Electoral Officers of the five poll-bound states to fine tune the arrangements.
Zaidi announced that the code of conduct was in effect and would apply to state governments and even the Centre.
The Election Commissioner said that they would also discourage behaviours that harm the environment, namely use of plastics, loudspeakers that affect people especially students.
The EC said that about 800 companies of para military will be used for elections. It said that TV Channels owned by politicians will be monitored by the media committee. Propaganda and campaigning by such TV channels to be added to expenses of candidates, he said.
Zaidi said that elections expenses will be capped at ₹28 Lakh for UP, Punjab and Uttarakhand and
₹20 lakh in Manipur and Goa. Kiosks at booths will be added to polling expenses. All transactions above Rs ₹20,000 have to be made by cheque.
Just four days after Modi Government presents its fourt Union budget, the states of Goa, Punjab and Manipur will be going to polls.