Election Dates: Strategy or Coincidence?
By Sanjay Pinto

Wittingly or unwittingly, the schedule for the upcoming Parliament Polls announced by the Election Commission, may benefit the ruling dispensation. Here’s why.

In the second phase,  97 Lok Sabha constituencies out of the 543, (the second largest chunk after 115 seats in the third phase) go to the polls on the 18th April. This coincides with a string of holidays.The previous day, 17th April is Mahaveer Jayanthi, followed by Good Friday and the weekend. In such situations, people tend to travel out of town. This may result in a lower voter turnout compared to previous elections. In turn, it will dent anti incumbency and benefit the party in power.

At the last Parliamentary election held on the 24th April in 2014,  there were no holidays around the polling date. Tamil Nadu witnessed an impressive voter turnout of 73.68 %. This was reportedly the second highest since 1967 when the State notched up a polling percentage of 76.56.

This time around, it’s not just the fortunes of the Centre but also the fate of the State government that is at stake. The by-elections to 18 constituencies will also be held simultaneously. A drastic set back in these assembly seats will push the EPS-OPS led government to the edge. The AIADMK is an ally of the BJP here and their fate is intertwined.

The Chithirai festival in Madurai also falls on the 18th April. Tamil Nadu and other States end up voting on Maundy Thursday. This is a holy day for Christians and falls bang in the middle of the Holy Lenten season leading up to Good Friday, a day of fasting and finally, Easter Sunday on the 21st April. Not long ago, there was a move to observe Christmas as Good Governance Day. One hopes the present polling date is just a coincidence.

(Sanjay Pinto is an Advocate practising at the Madras High Court, a Columnist, Author, TV Political Analyst and Former Resident Editor -NDTV 24×7)