After the Assembly Elections conducted in five states in November-December this year, where the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) lost power in Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Rajasthan, the country is now all set to experience the high-voltage political tussle ahead of Lok Sabha Elections 2019, which is often referred to as the mother of all electoral battles.
If we see the trends in last three Lok Sabha election (2004, 2009, 2014), the Election Commission (EC) generally announces the election dates by the end of first week of March.
14th Lok Sabha
For 2004 general elections, the EC had announced the poll schedule on February 29. Legislative elections were held in four phases between April 20 and May 10, 2004. Over 670 million people were eligible to vote, electing 543 members of the 14th Lok Sabha.
The counting of votes held on May 13, 2004. The 2004 elections were conducted completely using electronic voting machines (EVMs), with 1,368,430 voting machines deployed across the country.
15th Lok Sabha
For 2009 Lok Sabha Elections, the EC had announced the poll dates on March 2. The EC had announced the five-phase polls for the general elections scheduled between April 16 and May 13, 2009.
The counting of votes was held on May 16.
16th Lok Sabha
For 2014 general elections, the EC had announced the poll dates on March 5, 2014. The general elections were conducted in nine phases and counting of votes held on May 16. The whole exercise of conducting elections took 72-day time to complete. In 2009, the exercise was completed in 75 days.
The term of 16th Lok Sabha expires on June 3, 2019.
If trend continues , the EC will announce the schedule of Lok Sabha Elections 2019 in the first week of March next year. And, with the announcement of poll dates, the model code of conduct will come into effect from the same day.
The Narendra Modi Government has not more than 70 days left (If we count 10 days of December and 59 days of January and February next year) , and the government will not be able to announce any new schemes or projects once the Model Code of Conduct comes into the force.
What is Model Code of Conduct (MCC) and who does it apply to?:
The MCC is a set of guidelines issued by the Election Commission to regulate political parties and candidates prior to elections, to ensure free and fair elections. The MCC is crucial to make sure a level playing field among various contenders in the poll fray.
Here are few important things we should know about the model code of conduct -
- MCC is in accordance with Article 324 of the Constitution of India, which gives the Election Commission the power to supervise elections to the Parliament and state legislatures.
- The MCC is operational from the date that the election schedule is announced till the date that results are announced.
- A form of the MCC was first introduced in the state assembly elections in Kerala in 1960.
- In the 1962 general elections to the Lok Sabha, the MCC was circulated to recognised parties, and state governments sought feedback from the parties.
- In 1979, the Election Commission added a section to regulate the ‘party in power’ and prevent it from gaining an unfair advantage at the time of elections.
- In 2013, the Supreme Court directed the Election Commission to include guidelines regarding election manifestos, which it has included in the MCC for the 2014 general elections.
The MCC contains eight provisions outlined below -
1. General Conduct: Criticism of political parties must be limited to their policies and programmes, past record and work.
2. Meetings: Parties must inform the local police authorities of the venue and time of any meeting.
3. Processions: If two or more candidates plan processions along the same route, organisers must establish contact in advance to ensure that the processions do not clash.
4. Polling day: All authorised party workers at polling booths should be given identity badges. These should not contain the party name, symbol or name of the candidate.
5. Polling booths: Only voters, and those with a valid pass from the Election Commission, are allowed to enter polling booths.
6. Observers: The Election Commission appoints observers to whom any candidates may report problems regarding the conduct of the election.
7. Party in power: Ministers must not combine official visits with election work or use official machinery for the same. The party must avoid advertising at the cost of the public exchequer. The government must not announce any financial grants or any construction activities.
8. Election manifestos: It prohibit parties from making promises that exert an undue influence on voters.
The MCC is not enforceable by law. However, certain provisions of the MCC may be enforced through invoking corresponding provisions in other statutes such as the Indian Penal Code, 1860, Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973, and Representation of the People Act, 1951.
'Modi vs All' battle
The 2019 elections will be a battle between PM Modi’s popularity and a united opposition. Recently, the Congress party wrested power from the BJP in three important states - Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh and Rajasthan. The morale of Congress party is high with the much-needed poll victory in these states which the BJP always considered its stronghold.
However, opinion polls predict second consecutive term for Prime Minister Narendra Modi. However, the big difference is that this time the BJP will not be able to cross the half-way mark on its own in the parliament.
According to IndiaTV-CNX Opinion Poll the BJP-led NDA government will win a clear majority with 281 seats in Parliament if Lok Sabha elections were held today in the country. The opinion poll showed the UPA lagging far behind the NDA with only 124 seats in their kitty. Interestingly, the 'others' seem to outperform the UPA by a margin of 14 seats, winning 138 seats out of 543.
The mother all political battles is all set to begin in less than 70 days from now, and the country is gearing up to see another high-voltage campaigns and rallies of political parties to win highest number seats to gain maximum power in the 17th Lok Sabha.