The national election will be held in seven rounds from 11 April and the results will be announced on May 23, the Election Commission said on Sunday. Voting will be held across India on April 11, April 19, April 23, April 29, May 6, May 12 and May 19.
The announcement signals the start of a colossal voting exercise that will see Prime Minister Narendra Modi seeking another term in office and the opposition attempting to join forces to put up a strong fight.
Elections will also be held in four states – Andhra Pradesh, Sikkim, Arunachal Pradesh and Odisha – along with the parliamentary polls.
The Model Code of Conduct, which lays down the dos and don’ts ahead of the elections, is now in place.
The opposition Congress had accused the Election Commission of delaying the dates to enable the government to rush through the launch of welfare schemes and projects; no announcements can be made once the model code of conduct kicks in with the election dates. Commission sources have rubbished the claims.
The term of the Lok Sabha ends on June 3.
In 2014, PM Modi’s party, the BJP, became the first party in three decades to win a majority on its own; it won 282 of the 543 seats in Lok Sabha, where the majority mark is 272. The BJP-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA) won 336 seats.
The Congress was voted out of power after two terms and was reduced to just 44 seats.
The election body said assembly elections will not be held in Jammu and Kashmir along with the Lok Sabha elections. The state has been under Governor’s rule since the BJP ended the ruling alliance with Mehbooba Mufti’s People’s Democratic Party in June.
Some opinion polls have suggested ebbing support for the BJP since 2014. The party is said to be facing a particularly tough challenge after the Congress won three key state election victories in December, chipping into the BJP’s core support base in the Hindi heartland home to nearly half a billion voters.