India’s 714 million voters’ time to choose

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Indian general elections are the most extraordinary thing.  A total of 714 million people will be eligible to vote in the general election starting next month – 43 million more than in the last election in 2004.

The elections will be held over five days between April 16 and May 13. More than four million civil servants and 2.1 million paramilitary personnel will be involved in the exercise to elect 543 members of parliament. Two are appointed by the President.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s Congress party won 145 seats in the last general election and heads a coalition government whose term ends on June 1. The opposition is split. The Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) won 138 seats and heads a centre-right alliance while the Communist Party of India (Marxist) leads a leftwing alliance that until recently supported the ruling coalition. Congress ousted the BJP from power in the last election. The winner this time will be known after the votes are counted on May 16.

The polls will be conducted by the independent Election Commission, which has revised the boundaries of 499 of the 543 parliamentary constituencies. There will be more than 828,000 polling stations equipped with more than 1.1 million electronic voting machines spread across the 28 states and seven Union Territories.

Here is the polling schedule for the various states and Union Territories. Each is followed by the number of lawmakers it elects and the label “opp” if it is held by the opposition. (The states and Union Territories have their own governments.) Union Territories are labelled UT.

Jammu and Kashmir (6) and Uttar Pradesh (80, opp): April 16, 23, 30 and May 7 and 13.
Bihar (40): April 16, 23, 30 and May 7.
Maharashtra (48): April 16, 23, and 30.
West Bengal (42, opp) : April 30, May 7 and 13.
Andhra Pradesh (42): April 16 and 23.
Assam (14): April 16 and 23.
Karnataka (28, opp): April 23 and 30.
Madhya Pradesh (29, opp): April 23 and 30.
Manipur (2): April 16 and 23.
Orissa (21, opp): April 16 and 23.
Punjab (13, opp): May 7 and 13.
Jharkhand (14): April 16 and 23.
Arunachal Pradesh (2), Kerala (20, opp), Meghalaya (2), Mizoram (1), Nagaland (1, opp), Chhattisgarh (11, opp), Andaman and Nicobar Islands (1,UT) and Lakshadweep (1,UT) will have a single-phase poll on April 16.
Goa (2) and Tripura (2, opp) will have one-day poll on April 23.
Gujarat (26, opp), Sikkim (1), Dadra and Nagar Haveli (1, UT), and Daman and Diu (1, UT) will have one-day poll on April 30.
Delhi (7, UT), Haryana (10) and Rajasthan (25) will have a one-day poll on May 7.
Himachal Pradesh (4, opp), Tamil Nadu (39), Uttarakhand (5, opp), Chandigarh (1, UT) and Pondicherry (1, UT) will have polling on May 13.