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The Election Commission on Wednesday announced the poll dates for Uttar Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Punjab, Manipur and Goa. Chief Election Commissioner Nasim Zaidi said that the state of Manipur will have a twophase election and Uttar Pradesh will have a sevenphase election. Counting for all states will be held on 11 March.

A total of 690 assembly constituencies will go to polls in these elections. Twenty three of these have been reserved from Scheduled Tribes candidates. Over 160 million voters — that’s the size of the electorate in these assembly elections. There will be 1,85,000 polling stations across five states.

CEC Zaidi also announced that voter facilitation posters will be displayed at every polling booth, including voting procedure, dos and don’ts, etc.

Top officials of the Election Commission, had on Tuesday, met with Chief Electoral Officers of the five pollbound states – Uttar Pradesh, Punjab, Uttarakhand, Manipur and Goa to fine tune arrangements. The law and order situation in Manipur had been the key focus of the meeting.

Modi and Akhilesh will be face to face in UP electionsThe terms of the legislative assembly of Goa, Manipur and Punjab are due to expire on March 18 while that of Uttarakhand expires on March 26. The legislative term of Uttar Pradesh ends on May 27. Goa has 40 assembly seats, Manipur has 60, Punjab has 117, Uttarakhand has 70 while Uttar Pradesh has 403.

Meanwhile, opinion polls are divided on the outcome of assembly elections in Uttar Pradesh and Punjab, with India TodayAxis predicting a big victory for the BJP in the country’s politically important state. The opinion poll conducted by India TodayAxis between October and December last year gives the BJP a clear majority of 206216 out of the total 403 seats in UP where the polls will be held in seven phases starting February 11.

It gave the UP’s ruling Samajwadi Party, which is embroiled in a family feud, 9297 seats followed by the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) of Mayawati with 7985 seats and the Congress coming a distant fourth with 59 seats, much below its 2012 figure of 28 seats.

According to the survey, the BJP has gained from Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s demonetisation announcement on November 8 last year as its vote share has shown an increase from 31% in October to 33% in December.

On the other hand, ABP News Lok niti CSDS predicted a close fight between the BJP and the SP in UP. While it gave 141151 seats to the SP, 129139 to the BJP, 93103 to the BSP and 1319 to the Congress.

ABP NewsLoknitiCSDS opinion poll showed the ruling Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD)BJP combine locked in a tough contest with the Congress in Punjab and the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) coming third. It gave 5058 out of the total 117 seats to the SADBJP alliance, 4149 to the Congress and 1218 to the AAP.

But India Today Axis survey predicted a keen fight between the Congress and AAP in Punjab. It gave 4955 seats to the Congress, 4246 to the AAP and 1721 to the SADBJP. India TodayAxis also forecasted a victory for the BJP in Uttarakhand. It gave 3543 out of the total 70 seats to the BJP and 2230 to the Congress.

In what may come as a big relief to beleaguered Congress party, which has been losing every election that it has stood in over the recent period, bested each time by Narendra Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) on each occasion, an opinion poll held in Punjab ahead of the state elections shows that it is set to come back to power under Capt Amarinder Singh’s leadership.

The Modi charisma is unlikely to rub off onto the Shiromani Akali DalBJP alliance this time according to the poll and Parkash Singh Badal led party is set to be relegated to the third position behind the Arvind Kejriwal led Aam Aadmi Party (AAP).Elections in Punjab will be held on February 4 while the counting will be done on March 11.

What is expected to hit the alliance is the huge incumbency factor, but most of all the fact that Badal and son Sukhbir Singh have not been able to get the troubled economy going, the various scam allegations they are facing and the drugs problem has acquired emergency proportions with no effective crackdown by the government in sight. The BJP as the junior partner has not looked to upset the government by asking for a change in tack.

According to India TodayAxis Opinion Poll, the Congress is likely to win 5662 seats, Aam Admi Party may end up winning 3641 seats while SADBJP combine may come a distant third by winning 1822 seats. As per the poll, Captain Amrinder Singh of the Congress is most favoured face to become next chief minister of the state, 34 percent of voters favouring him, current Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal in second position with 22 percent, while AAP supremo and Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal coming third with 16 percent being in his favour.

Also, the Congress is likely to get 35 percent of vote share, while AAP and SADBJP combine are likely to get 29 percent and 24 percent share.

In the meanwhile, several opposition parties, including the Congress, the Trinamool Congress (TMC), the DMK and the JD (U), on Wednesday met with Election Commission (EC) officials to demand the postponement of the Union budget to after elections are over in the five states.

The Union budget is expected to be presented on February 1 . And polls in five states are scheduled to start February 4 . Opposition parties fear the BJP will announce sops and other programs to sway voters towards them. This would be a violation of the Model Code of Conduct, they said.

An 11member delegation of opposition party members met with EC officials on Wednesday. “We have a simple solution. Present the budget after March 8 and get it passed before March 31, there’s plenty of time,” said the TMC’s Derek O’Brien. March 8 is the last day of polls in any of the five states.

Rahul Gandhi will find success in Punjab
Rahul Gandhi will find success in Punjab

The Congress, the TMC and other members of the delegation all said they wanted the budget postponed. “This is against the democracy, we have requested the EC to stop the presentation of budget. Populist measures could be taken in budget, so a just and fair election can’t be held,” said Ghulam Nabi Azad of the Congress, after the meeting with the EC.

Many have said since yesterday this is a deliberate ploy by the ruling BJP. “It is clear that the government will misuse the budget presentation and try to allure the voters just before polls,” said Anand Sharma, Congress spokesman, ANI reported.

“This gives unfair advantage to the government. It will influence the voters. It is clear that the government will misuse the budget presentation and the President’s Address to both the houses of parliament which is customary to make announcements, popular schemes, and also try to allure the voters,” the Congress leader told ANI.

The Aam Aadmi Party (AAP), though not part of the opposition delegation that met EC officials, is also against the Union budget being presented before the state elections.

The NCP’s chief Sharad Pawar also criticized the timing of the budget and said it shouldn’t be held too close to the five states’ polls and should be deferred, reported PTI.

After the EC announced the dates for five state elections yesterday, opposition parties wrote to the poll watchdog as well as to President Pranab Mukherjee asking they restrain the government from presenting the budget on February 1. They said the Modi government might use it to tip the scales in the BJP’s favour by offering sops, which are forbidden under the model code of conduct. Parties have cited instances from the past when the budget was postponed because of elections.

However, finance minister Arun Jaitley defended the government’s decision to stick to the plan to present the Budget on February 1.