India elections 2024: Commission to announce dates for national votes

Prime Minister Modi is seeking a third five-year term in office as 970 million prepare to go to the polls

Women wait cast their votes in a state election in Rajasthan in 2023. AP
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The Election Commission of India is set to announce the dates for the world’s largest elections.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi is seeking a third five-year term. His Bharatiya Janata Party is currently leading in unofficial opinion polls, ahead of its main challenger, the Indian National Congress party.

India conducts elections for the lower house of Parliament, the Lok Sabha, every five years to appoint a new federal government.

The commission will announce the schedule of the polls on Saturday in New Delhi. The term of the current parliament ends on June 16, with the elections expected in April or May.

Dates for four state elections will also be announced, it said on X on Friday. Those polls will probably run simultaneously with the national vote.

The commission is responsible for holding free and fair elections in the world’s largest democracy. The elections can last for weeks, with electronic voting machines used across the country.

India has a population of 1.4 billion and about 970 million are eligible to vote in the polls, the commission said. Voters will elect 543 members of parliament.

India’s constitution allows the ruling party to run the government while the elections are held, but bars it from making major policy and administrative changes to avoid influencing the result of the polls.

The voting schedule announcement follows an announcement about a nationwide model code of conduct – a set of rules for political parties and their candidates during campaigning and polling.

A panel led by Mr Modi appointed two retired federal officers, Gyanesh Kumar and Sukhbir Singh Sandhu, as election commissioners. The roles were vacant after a commissioner retired in February, with the other stepping down last week, prompting criticism from opposition parties.

Mr Modi brought in legislation in December last year that allows him to lead the panel, along with a cabinet member and leader of the opposition.

The move has been challenged in the Supreme Court by the Association of Democratic Rights. The court on Friday refused to stay the appointments, but listed the plea for a hearing next week.

Updated: April 08, 2024, 10:59 AM