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The battlefield is now ready to win the top political prize!

The much-awaited schedule for the Lok Sabha polls has been announced today by the Election Commission, with which the Model Code of Conduct for governments and political parties has come into force.

Unlike the last time which was a five-phase affair, the polls have stretched to nine phases, the highest so far, between April 7 and May 12 and involve an electorate of 814 million. Counting of the votes will be done on May 16. It is the first time the country witnesses elections over such a long period.

Assembly elections will also be held simultaneously in the states of Andhra Pradesh, including Telangana region, Odisha and Sikkim.

BJP is tipped as front runner on the basis of opinion polls, but ambitious regional leaders are also vying for the space vacated by a UPA perceived to be in decline. A long campaign is sure to see several twists in the tale before the eventual winner is declared around mid-May.