As per the election schedule announced by Chief Election Commissioner Sunil Arora on Sunday, India will vote in seven phases from April 11 till May 19 — an exercise lasting 38 days.
Against 81.4 crore people, who were eligible to vote in the last elections, 8.3 crore more voters have been added this time, taking the total number of voters to 90 crore. In other words, there are now more voters in India than there are people in Europe and Russia combined.
While the entire nation will tune in to know the outcome on May 23, the official results may end up being delayed by almost 24 hours.
LESSONS IN MP POLLS
The wait may be similar to the one witnessed during the Madhya Pradesh Assembly elections when the official announcement was delayed by a full 24 hours. It was at 8:30 am on December 12, one day after counting of votes, that the Election Commission declared that the Congress had won 114 seats and the BJP 109.
With a narrow margin in several constituencies, as slender as two votes in some cases, the runners-up put up repeated objections. As per procedure, the result of the EVM had to be re-displayed to the candidate, causing delay beyond the usual 20-30 minutes. According to reports, this was the case with multiple rounds of counting in many constituencies.
During the polls, the Election Commission had said that it took an average one hour after completion of all counting rounds to match VVPAT slips with EVM count for one polling station per assembly seat. Normally, there are 1,200-1,400 paper trail slips to be manually counted for each assembly seat. It is only after the EVM-VVPAT count is tallied that the result be declared.
What is VVPAT
For upcoming general elections, Voter Verifiable Paper Audit Trail (VVPAT) machines will be used in all polling booths along with EVMs.
VVPAT or paper trail machine is a device which dispenses a slip with the symbol of the party the person has voted for. The slip appears on a small window for seven seconds and then drops in a box. Parties have demanded that 10-30% paper trail slips per constituency be counted to ensure there is no rigging.
As many as 17.4 lakh VVPAT machines will be deployed for the Lok Sabha and simultaneous assembly elections.
New standard operating procedures issued by the EC, vehicles installed with GPS trackers and mobile-based tracking system for transportation of reserve EVMs and VVPATs will be used, CEC Sunil Arora had said on Sunday.
As of now, VVPAT machines are used in all polling stations, but results of EVMs and VVPATs are matched in one polling station per constituency.
Considering that almost 17.4 lakh VVPAT machines will be deployed for upcoming elections, there are bound to be narrow leads and demands to re-display results from runner-up candidates. Adding to this is the EC’s new procedure to tally results with the VVPAT trail.
Going by the experience in Madhya Pradesh, official results may be delayed in constituencies across India. In 2014, then Congress chief Sonia Gandhi had already put out a congratulatory message for the BJP and Narendra Modi at 4pm and by the next hour Modi had already shared the roadmap for a victory rally the next day. Celebrations may have to wait for a while this time.