Election 2024: Nearly a billion people to vote in 1.05 million booths; results to be announced on June 4 | Latest News India - Hindustan Times
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Election 2024: Nearly a billion people to vote in 1.05 million booths; results to be announced on June 4

Mar 17, 2024 01:19 AM IST

Assembly elections in Andhra Pradesh, Sikkim, Arunachal Pradesh, and Odisha will also take place simultaneously, as will assembly bypolls for 26 vacant seats.

Nearly a billion people will vote in 1.05 million polling booths to select India’s next government, the Election Commission of India (ECI) announced on Saturday, kick-starting the world’s largest democratic exercise that will be staggered across seven phases stretching over six weeks between April 19 and June 1.

A crowded polling centre during the 2019 Lok Sabha elections at Brij Puri in north-east Delhi. (Sonu Mehta/HT PHOTO)
A crowded polling centre during the 2019 Lok Sabha elections at Brij Puri in north-east Delhi. (Sonu Mehta/HT PHOTO)

The results will be announced on June 4.

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Assembly elections in Andhra Pradesh, Sikkim, Arunachal Pradesh, and Odisha will also take place simultaneously, as will assembly bypolls for 26 vacant seats, ECI said.

“After assessment in all states, we are confident of ensuring memorable, independent and impartial polls,” chief election commissioner Rajiv Kumar said at a press briefing. He said the body was determined to tackle the use of muscle, money, misinformation and violations of the poll code. “From wherever we receive the information of violence, we will take action against them.”

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The number of eligible voters stands at nearly 969 million, more than the population of the US, Russia and the European Union. The polls will take place in seven phases — on April 19, 26, May 7, 13, 20, 25 and June 1 — a testament to the daunting logistical and security challenges in overseeing an electorate stretching from the Himalayas in the north to deserts in the west, insurgent-infested tropical jungles in the centre and the coastal plains in the south.

Three of India’s biggest states, Uttar Pradesh, Bihar and West Bengal will see elections across all seven phases. Two states — Maharashtra and Jammu and Kashmir — will vote in five phases, three states in four phases, two states in three phases, four in two phases, and 22 in a single phase.

The first phase, on April 19, will be the biggest, across 102 seats and 21 states, and the fifth phase, across 49 seats and eight states on May 20, will be the smallest.

“I urge parties to refrain from personal attacks and foul language. No-go areas in speeches are defined to maintain civility. Let us not cross lines in our rivalry,” Kumar said.

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The elections will see Prime Minister Narendra Modi seek a third consecutive term, which will make him only the second person in independent India after Jawaharlal Nehru to achieve the feat. He said the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) were fully prepared for elections.

“The last decade was about filling gaps created by those who ruled for seventy years. It was also about instilling a spirit of self-confidence that yes, India can become prosperous and self-reliant. We will build on this spirit,” he said on X.

The PM also took potshots at the Opposition, dubbing it “rudderless and issueless”.

“Ten years ago, before we assumed office, the people of India were feeling betrayed and disillusioned thanks to INDI Alliance’s pathetic governance. No sector was left untouched from scams and policy paralysis. The world had given up on India. From there, it’s been a glorious turnaround,” he said.

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The Opposition hit back.

“2024 Lok Sabha elections will open the ‘Door of NYAY’ for India. This would be perhaps the last chance to save democracy and our Constitution from dictatorship. We the people of India will together fight against hatred, loot, unemployment, price rise and atrocities,” said Congress chief Mallikarjun Kharge.

Lok Sabha elections in India are a mind-boggling affair where leaders wrestle to weave narratives that bridge deep and complex divisions of caste, class, religion and region. In the last general elections in 2019, the BJP rode on a wave of Modi’s pan-Indian popularity and nationalistic fervour to a once-in-a-generation majority. The party won 303 seats, and along with its allies comprising the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) captured 336 seats in the 543-member Lower House. The Congress, saddled by the weight of past corruption and the lack of a charismatic leader, was reduced to 52 seats.

This time, the BJP has set a target of 370 seats and 400 for the NDA on the back of welfare politics, development, and the Hindutva plank. Former allies have returned to the NDA ahead of the polls, as the BJP looks to defend its fortress in northern India and make inroads in eastern and southern India.

The Opposition’s Indian National Democratic Inclusive Alliance (INDIA) hopes to cut into the BJP’s electoral track record and broad social coalition. But it is saddled with internal contradictions and still-deadlocked seat talks in key states.

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In 2019, the general elections recorded a turnout of 67%, the highest since the first election in 1951-52. The first election process in independent India in 1951 was a months-long process that spilled over into 1952. The turnout was just 45% as the authorities struggled to reach remote areas in a country where the vast majority of the electorate was illiterate. Since then, ECI has instituted a number of innovations, becoming a model for major democracies and extending its expertise to help conduct polls in countries such as Cameroon, Afghanistan and the Philippines.

The women’s turnout in 2019 outstripped that of men — 67.18% to 67.01% — for the first time.

A total of 26.3 million new electors — nearly the population of Australia — were added ahead of the 2024 national polls. Around 14.1 million new women voters surpassed the newly enrolled male voters (12.2 million) by 15%.

“There are 12 such states where the gender ratio is over 1000 which means that number of women voters is more than males,” Kumar said.

The number of third-gender voters increased from 39,680 in 2014 to a little over 48,000.

Over 20 million young electors in the 18-19 and 20-29 age groups were added to the electoral rolls. At least 18.5 million voters were above 80. The number of centenarians (those who are 100 and above) stood at 238,000. Uttar Pradesh had the maximum number of voters at 153 million as of February 8 and Lakshadweep had the lowest — 57,000.

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