Lok Sabha battle in April-May, parties say ‘we are ready’ (Roundup)

January 28th, 2009 - 8:47 pm ICT by IANS  

London/New Delhi, Jan 28 (IANS) India, the world’s largest democracy, is to hold its next general elections in April-May, five years after the 2004 Lok Sabha battle dramatically brought the Congress to power.Election Commissioner S.Y. Quraishi said in London Tuesday that the staggered polls would start April 8 or 10 and end May 18. The declaration was promptly hailed by India’s mainstream political parties.

Addressing British academics and politicians after a lecture on the December Jammu and Kashmir elections, Quraishi said the date of May 18 was linked to the Sikkim assembly polls.

“It’s an open and shut case. In March (general) elections are not possible” because of nationwide school examinations, he said. Most polling centres are located in school buildings.

“Beyond May we cannot go. So that leaves us with only April-May,” he went on. “Parliament has got (life) till May 30 but since there are three other states that are going to polls — Andhra Pradesh, Orissa and Sikkim — it will be a close tie.”

The Sikkim elections, due by May 22, was the chief factor in deciding the cut off date.

“We cannot have general elections in Sikkim May 15 or 20 and ask the Sikkimese to come for state elections earlier. Therefore May 22 is our due date.

“Working backwards … we may start on the 8th or 10th of April and finish on the 15th-18th of May,” said Quraishi, who was on his way to India from Stockholm, where he attended a meeting at the International Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance (IDEA).

Although the Election Commission is yet to make an official announcement about the general elections, political parties in India said they were all set for the gigantic battle that will involve over 670 million voters — more than the combined population of Russia and the US.

“We are ready to go to the electorate,” Congress spokesman Shakeel Ahmad told IANS. He said the process of selection of candidates was already on. The Congress Working Committee will meet Jan 29.

The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) too said it was battle ready.

“We will announce the names of most candidates by the second week of February,” BJP vice president Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi said.

The Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M) said it would comment only after an official announcement from the Election Commission.

Quraishi’s comments are expected to speed up the process of alignment and realignment among Indian political parties as they firm up old alliances and look for new ones.

Most political analysts expect 2009 to produce another hung Lok Sabha.

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