NEW DELHI, Dec 24 (IANS): Elections will be held to the Goa, Manipur, Punjab, Uttar Pradesh and Uttarakhand Assemblies between Jan 28 and March 3, 2012, and votes will be counted March 4, it was announced Saturday.
It will be the biggest test for political parties in the country since Assam, West Bengal, Tamil Nadu, Puducherry and Kerala went to the polls in April-May this year.
Chief Election Commissioner S.Y. Qureshi told media persons that while balloting in Uttar Pradesh will be spread over seven phases, the other four states will have a single-day voting.
The elections will kick off from Manipur Jan 28, followed by Punjab and Uttarakhand on Jan 30.
Uttar Pradesh, the country's most populous state, will see polling spread over Feb 4, 8, 11, 15, 19, 23 and 28. Goa will go to polls March 3.
A total of 137 million people will be eligible to vote in all five states. Uttar Pradesh, with 403 seats, alone accounts for 111.9 million voters.
Punjab (117 seats) has 17.4 million voters, Uttarakhand (70 seats) 5.7 million, Manipur (60 seats) 1.6 million, while Goa (40 seats) has just one million voters.
The present terms of the five state assemblies expire from March 12 (Uttarakhand) to March 14 (Punjab), March 15 (Manipur), May 20 (Uttar Pradesh), and June 14 (Goa).
Qureshi said the model code of conduct will come into effect immediately so as to prevent state governments from giving out sops to the electorate.
He said candidates would be required to open a new bank account from which alone they can spend money on their campaign. "This will help facilitate monitoring."
A 24-hour call centre would be operational for the first time to register poll related complaints. It can be reached on telephone number 1950, which happens to be the year the Election Commission was constituted.
Qureshi said videography would be done extensively of all events during the elections.
He urged candidates and political parties not to seek votes in the name of caste and communities, and said no election campaign would be permitted in religious shrines.
Qureshi said the election dates have been decided on the strength of climatic conditions, academic schedules, festivals, law and order situation, availability of security forces, time needed for their movement and deployment, and "other ground realities"