Springing a surprise, the Election Commission on Wednesday announced a seven-phased assembly election in Uttar Pradesh beginning on April 7, a decision that may throw spanner in the works of Congress plans for imposition of President's rule.
After discussions with Union Home Secretary VK Duggal, Chief Election Commissioner N Gopalaswamy announced the dates for various phases - April 7, 13, 18, 23, 28 and May 3 and 8 - in the election to the 403 member Assembly.
By-elections to three Lok Sabha seats - Robertsganj, Mirzapur and Bilhour on the day their respective assembly segment would go for polls.
Counting of votes in all these elections would be taken up on May 11. The Model Code of Conduct will come into force immediately.
The Commission's declaration of poll schedule came as a bolt from the blue for the Congress which had initiated an exercise aimed at dislodging the Mulayam Singh Yadav government by imposition of President's rule in the wake of disqualification of 13 BSP MLAs by the Supreme Court last week.
The decision raised questions whether the Centre could still act on Congress plans for invoking Article 356 of the Constitution in the state in the wake of the Commission's announcement.
Two leading legal experts former Attorney General Soli Sorabjee and KK Venugopal said that the announcement of poll schedule does not come in the way of any Centre's decision to impose President's rule in a state. However, Sorabjee feels that such a decision will be improper and smacking of malafides.
Both said if the government felt that governance in a state could not be carried on in accordance with the provisions of the Constitution, it could impose President's rule.
Asked about the urgency in announcing the schedule, Gopalasway said "as far as we are concerned, the clock of Constitutional mandate started ticking for us from Tuesday. We are 24 hours behind."