EC announces schedule of assembly polls in 5 states

The Election Commission of India (EC) today announced the full schedule of assembly elections to be held in five states - Goa, Uttarakhand, Manipur, Punjab and Uttar Pradesh - thereby invoking the Model Code of Conduct.

State election commissioners are vested with powers to that political parties observe the poll code and that governments do not try to influence voters through sops.

The poll code also bars opposition political parties from using unfair means to campaign for votes for their candidates.

Almost all political parties welcomed the announcement of assembly elections in five states with the BJP exuding confidence of victory due to the "positive undercurrent" post demonetisation and Congress urging Election Commission to ensure free and fair polls.

"State elections are fought largely on the state-level issues ...(but) there is a positive undercurrent for the BJP across the country which is what we have seen post-demonetisation.

"There is a strong undercurrent. Therefore, we expect to win all the states ... our stakes are the lowest, but our gains are going to be highest," BJP national spokesperson GVL Narsimha Rao said.

The upcoming state assembly polls in five states will see parties fighting for a total of 690 seats. Goa will have a one-phase election, Manipur will have two phases and the largest state Uttar Pradesh Assembly will host elections in seven phases.

The EC has fixed the candidate's election expenditure in UP, Punjab and Uttrakhand at Rs28 lakh and for Goa, Manipur at Rs20 lakh, Chief Election Commissioner Nasim Zaidi said while announcing poll schedule.

Uttar Pradesh has a total of 403 seats, where phase 1 of polling on 11 February will be for 73 constituencies, while phase 2 polls on 15 February will be for 67 constituencies, phase 3 polling on 19 February will be for 69 constituencies, phase 4 polling on 23 February will be for 53 constituencies, phase 5 of polling on 27 February will be  for 52 constituencies, phase 6 of polling on 4 March will be for 49 constituencies, phase 7 of polling on 8 March will cover the remaining 40 constituencies

Goa will have one-day polling for 40 seats  on 4 February; Punjab will be going to polls the same day with 117 constituencies and Manipur will go for a two-phase polling on 4 and 8 March with candidates fighting for a total of 60 seats. Uttarakhand poll is fixed for 15 February and the total number of seats is 70.

Counting of votes will be on 11 March 2017 and results will be available on the same day.