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An unusual unconference!

January 4, 2022

We have to live with the virus. There is only so much power we can give it. And we can live with it, by masking and ensuring we build stronger immunity.

Livelihoods have to be saved. I run a business which involves physical meeting of people periodically. We have refrained from physical meetings for 20 months. Our last event was on March 12th 2020. Then we tried two small gatherings on December 21 and 22, 2021.

While we were at it we decided to experiment with an unconference in Mangalore to kick off the new year. Because we need to know how to organise residential events in the post-covid world and we had 30 friends of the Promise Foundation who signed up to be part of this effort. So, we may be the first event where we are trying multiple mini formats over the course of 24 hours on 8th and 9th January including a session under the mango tree. Those attending are doing it voluntarily and are also taking a risk because it involves travel. The event is centred around culture, cuisine, connections and conversations. 

Around 25 of us will be at the Avatar Hotel in Mangalore. The unconference commences with conversations over lunch at Pickle & Grain restaurant in the hotel between 12 noon and 2 pm. Thereafter, the venue is ours for conversations around The Future of Communications where any delegate can speak for three minutes on the topic and share their views. This will run from 2.15 pm to 3.45 pm when we break for tea followed by a visit to the world-famous St Aloysius Chapel (2 kms away). For those who are not driving down we will arrange transportation for the same. The outing will last 90 minutes including travel time. We should be back at the hotel by 6.15 pm to freshen up. Cocktails and dinner that evening are at a 128 year-old Mangalorean home adjacent to the hotel. The couple that resides at Nandigudda House (Dr Derek and Patsy Lobo) have graciously agreed to host us there and open the doors to their vintage home. This will be between 7.20 pm and 9.50 pm. 

Next morning breakfast is served at the Loft (the restaurant at Avatar) between 7.30 am. and 9.15 am. Thereafter, we will walk to another antique home – Melrose owned by the Coelho family which is 700 metres away from the hotel. We will sit in the verandah or under the mango tree and have conversations focussed on 2-3 topics that need a renewed focus in 2022 – mental well-being, work from home, technology impacting our lives. We will call this Caring for our Present. This will take place between 9.30 am and 11.30 am, after which we walk back to the hotel to check out, though a few will stay back and check out on Monday. For those who check-out after breakfast and leave their bags in the lobby an option to head out for lunch subject to late afternoon flights is available. 

We know what we are doing is not business as usual but we will do it by keeping in mind the future of our business. We hope you will be kind to us whatever the outcome of this effort is. I take ownership of what will unfold. Therefore, I am publishing this on my personal blog. A blog after six long years.

Indian cities I have visited

December 20, 2015

I just wanted to capture in a list, all the 100 Indian cities I have visited so I’m motivated to visit some more.A visit means at least spending the entire day or staying one night in the city. Passing by does not count 🙂

Karnataka: Mangalore, Karwar, Bangalore, Mysore, Udupi, Manipal, Shimoga, Hassan, Chikamagalur, Madikeri, Mandya, Tumkur,

Kerala: Kasargod, Kannur, Trichur, Kottayam, Munnar, Kochi, Thiruvananthapuram, Ernakulam,

Tamilnadu: Chennai, Coimbatore, Tanjore

Andhra Pradesh: Hyderabad, Kazipet, Warangal, Vishakapatnam

Goa: Panjim, Margaon, Dona Paula


Maharashtra: Mumbai, Pune, Aurangabad, Nagpur, Vasai, Karad, Matheran, Mahabaleshwar, Panchgani, Alibag

Madhya Pradesh: Bhopal

Himachal Pradesh: Simla

Rajasthan: Jaipur, Jodhpur, Kota, Jaisalmer, Neemrana

Punjab: Amritsar, Bathinda

Haryana: Karnal, Gurgaon

Uttar Pradesh: Gorakhpur, Lucknow, Agra, Varanasi, Meerut, Khushinagar, Sardarnagar

Jammu & Kashmir: Jammu, Srinagar


West Bengal: Calcutta, Durgapur, Kharagpur, Baruipur, Malda, Darjeeling, Kurseong, Kalimpong, Asansol, Siliguri, Bagdogra, Jalpaiguri

Orissa: Cuttack, Bhubaneshwar, Behrampur,

Jharkand: Ranchi, Jamshedpur

Bihar: Patna

Gujarat: Ahmedabad, Gandhinagar, Bhuj, Gandhidam,

Uttarakhand: Dehradun, Mussourie, Nainital

Sikkim: Gangtok, Namchi, Pakyong

Assam: Guwahati, Kaziranga, Karbi Anglong, Dispur

Meghalaya: Shillong, Barapani

Union Territories: Chandigarh, Dadra & Nagar Haveli, Daman, Pondicherry, New Delhi, Mahe,


How many have you been to?


Protected: Confidential – Event Preview

December 1, 2015

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Countries I have visited

November 30, 2015

Since my blog is an open diary of things I like and think about, here is celebrating a milestone of travel – 25 countries, 125 international cities and all major continents at age 35. I’m a travel buff. I try and visit one new Indian city and one new country every year. Here’s the list of the latter.


  1. Nepal (1992) – Bhutwal, Bhairwah
  2. Thailand (1999, 2008, 2014) – Bangkok, Hua Hin, Petchaburi, Pattaya
  3. Jordan (2000) – Amman
  4. Israel (2000) – Jerusalem
  5. Palestine (2000) – Bethlehem, Nazareth,
  6. Taiwan (2001) – Taipei
  7. Hong Kong (2006)
  8. UAE (2011) – Dubai, Abudhabi
  9. Malaysia (2011) – Kualalumpur, Genting
  10. China (2011) – Shanghai
  11. Bhutan (transit in 2001)
  12. Singapore (transit in 2001 and 2006)
  13. Srilanka (transit in 2014)


  1. Italy (2000) – Rome, Assisi, Foligno, Cassia
  2. Vatican (2000)
  3. France (2000) – Paris,
  4. Belgium (2010) – Brussels, Brugges
  5. United Kingdom (2011) – London
  6. Germany (transit in 2010)

North America:

  1. USA (2010) – 30 cities*
  2. Canada (2013) – Toronto, Quebec City, Montreal

South America:

  1. Brazil (2013) – Sao Paolo, Rio de Janiero


  1. Australia (2014) – Brisbane, Sydney


  1. Tanzania (2015) – Kilimanjaro, Arusha, Tanga, Moshi
  2. Kenya (2015) – Nairobi

30+ cities in USA – New York, Chicago, Miami, Indianapolis, St Louis

Cedar Rapids, Milwaukee, Dearborn, Washington DC, Seattle

Boston, Buffalo, Gatlinburg, San Francisco, Las Vegas

Grand Canyon, San Diego, Los Angeles, Anaheim, Austin

Charlotte, New Orleans, Minneapolis, Davenport, Atlanta

Madison, Springfield, Omaha, Portland, Philadelphia




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April 14, 2015

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355. 14 memorable experiences of 2014

December 31, 2014

1.Feeding Kangaroos & then eating Kangaroo meat (cruel)

2.Cuddling Koalas in Brisbane

3.Walking on Bondi beach (fab)

4.Chilling out at Sydney Opera House

5.Flying on Malaysian Airlines despite warnings (scary)

6.Hanging out in Pattaya’s walking Street

7.Discovering Goudinhos in Panjim (yum)

8.Joining candidates on the election trail

9.Flying with a chief minister in a charter plane and on helicopter (thrilling)

10.Publishing my first book

11.Checking out the mismanaged Wagah Border

12.Winning the PR professional of the year award (real surprise)

13. Fighting with the one you love and then making peace

14.Hosting 20 PR head honchos for lunch and a brainstorm (humbling)

Onwards and upwards…

May 17, 2014

(this blog is about my journey in the last six months)

Last summer I decided to return from Chicago in the winter of 2013 (the plan was to spend two years in the USA and the resolve was to stick to the plan). I was to work full time on weekdays with the Gurgaon office of my employer and volunteer on the weekend (for 25 weekends) with a political party, in the run up to the elections. The first part of the plan did not work out because my Indian handlers dropped the ball miserably in terms of role, location and compensation. The second part of the plan was proposed because of my passion for politics and the possibility of me getting full time in either political strategy or electoral politics in the near future.

I began the new journey I had set out for by taking up a three month assignment as a consultant with a PR firm which was a frontrunner to work with a political party. I refused the overtures from another PR firm who turned out to be the underdog in the race for the same mandate. By then I had met Rahul Gandhi accidentally and was utterly disappointed with his style and approach. A meeting thereafter with a senior party strategist shocked me further, as I realised how ill prepared and chaotic they were. The situation was grim and the writing was on the wall. With that disillusionment I took the call to observe few individuals who I thought were promising Parliamentarians and learn grassroots campaigning and community outreach first hand.

In the meanwhile a friend of a friend got me in touch with Arvind Kejriwal himself to work on AAP’s content and communication. This was the second disappointment as the man is an awesome human being but a novice in politics who himself is learning the ropes. I got connected with a bunch of interesting men including Dilip Pandey and Yogendra Yadav but they were finding a method in the madness and I was impatient. So with no influence whatsoever, through twitter and email I decided to reach out to a few candidates and requesting them to let me be on their campaign trail for a few days. And thus began a journey of watching these candidates up, close and searching for signals of what the future had in store. I saw a Modi wave emerging and was not sure if I was overestimating what I was hearing on the ground. Or maybe I was in denial.

But the time I spent in these few constituencies watching how these young celebrity women candidates handled crowds, fans, voters was fascinating. I could sense they were not in a comfortable position in terms of winning but I could see their ardent desire to fight a system of patriarchy that was staring at them. I’m glad I decided to follow my heart and take the road less travelled. As this was happening a bunch of PR firm head honchos were beginning conversations with me to join their companies at the end of the election season and I had made up my mind that I certainly did not want to be employed as the entrepreneurial bug had bitten me. I knew that I wanted to start out on my own. And I had two ideas I was willing to experiment with. I will share these ideas in detail in a separate blog but one of them is to start a specialised communications firm exclusively for Members of Parliament.

In the last six months I met several of my old connections and at least 50 new people who support the idea of working out a hybrid model. With that advice I am taking up a consulting assignment where I’m offering my time, two days a week to a leading PR firm to be the advisor to its leadership on strategy and insights. And the rest of the time is mine, to build my ideas into commercially viable entities. Thus starting Monday, the 19th May 2014  I embark on a journey into the unknown but with a clear roadmap and Plan B that gets activated if my ideas fail which I will evaluate at the end of the year. For now, I am excited about the new contours my professional journey is taking. And I’m looking forward to this next chapter of my life. Onwards and upwards!

The new political wave!

May 16, 2014

Today was not like any other. It was result day after a well fought election. And very few expected the kind of result that we saw. This was also an election that was projected to be a watershed and indeed it was. Here are my ten takeaways of the outcome –

It was severe anti-incumbency and the way cabinet minister after cabinet minister lost and in some cases coming third and fourth was a story in itself. The External Affairs minister, the Telecom minister, the HRD minister, the Home minister and several others had to all bite the dust.

It was a vote for credible change and we saw it in the way the voters gave a decisive verdict ensuring the leading party got all seats in some states and almost 95% seats in few others. The ruling dispensation was wiped out in states where it is running a government.

It was a clearly laid out war and every trick in the book and every tool in the kit was put to good use. The opponents were caught unaware as the onslaught went on and on. There was one side charging along and no one to lay a counter offensive.

It was well packaged and that is something to marvel about. Political packaging and communication has come of age and BJP showed everyone how it is done and how it is done in utmost style. From merchandise to event properties to road shows.

It was stealthily executed which is how battles are fought. The enemy doesn’t have a clue of what is going on. Most of all does not smell that something is a miss and the ground beneath it is shaking.

It was a disgust for dynasty and across the board. There were exceptions in the ruling dispensation. But in UP outside of the Sangh Parivar only ywo families won – 2 seats to the Gandhi family and 5 seats to the Yadav clan.

It was a no risking on fringe players by what I mean BJP did not let potential allies slip by. They built the right partnerships including bringing back certain elements back to the fold as we saw in Karnataka.

It was divisive. The numbers were far from what the BJP had imagined. They won in one state more than what the Cogress got in all states. From Kashmir to Kanyakumari and Porbandar to Dibrugarh they won hands down. The Congress did not get double digits in any state. Their final national tally was almost half of what BJP got in one state

It was everywhere and sometimes over the top. The in your face advertising on outdoors, on social media, on print, on TV. They played to win. The Congress played because they had no choice. They did not fight and most of all they did not communicate right.

It was unstoppable. This goes without saying. The juggernaut rolled like a well oiled machine and it made a mark, proved a point and is here to stay.

My MXM India columns in one place

March 24, 2014

150. 11th April

149. 4th April

148. 28th March

147. 21st March

146. 14th March

145. 7th March

144. 29th February –

143. 22nd February –

142. 15th February –

141. 8th February –

140. 1st February – Leaving a Legacy

139. 25th January – 16 things we hope to see in Indian PR this year

138. 18th January – The 16 leading ladies of Indian PR consulting

137. 11th January – 16 Trends in PR & Corp Comm in 2016

136. 2016 4th January – 16 people to watch out in 2016 in Indian Public Relations

135. 28th December – 15 events in World and Indian PR

134. 21st December – 15 young professionals who show promise

133. 14th December – 15 books to read for PR pros in the year ahead

132. 7th December – 15 interesting moves in 2015

131. 30th November – A perspective on PR awards

130. 23rd November – Notes from Nairobi

129. 16th November – The Kingdom of Dreams experience lacks good Public Relations 

128. 9th November – A quest for higher education in Communications

127. 2nd November – Why brands get it wrong?

126. 26th October – What can our Festivals teach us?

125. 19th October – Public Relations learnings from the week that was

124. 12th October – The Pirate’s Manifesto

123. 5th October – 7 things they don’t teach you at C school

122. 28th September – A Praxis like no other

121. 21st September – What the new PRCAI President ought to do?

120. 14th September – Public Relations is about honesty, no matter what!

119. 7th September – 21 steps to a bloody good event

118. 31st August – Where is our talent coming from?

117. 24th August – PR is not changing. We are!

116. 17th August – Liberation is what we need! 

115. 10th August – The season of PR events is here!

114. 3rd August – The Public Relations person par excellence

113. 27th July – 10 steps to being better PR professionals

112. 20th July – Public Relations is about the simple touches

111. 13th July – New age brands that have built themselves using smart Public Relations 

110. 6th July – Pot Pourri from the world of Public Relations

109. 29th June – When will there be a Cannes Lion Grand Prix for PR, by PR and of PR? 

108. 22nd June – The Client Brief – is that a myth?

107. 15th June – New age problems of dealing with younger talent

106. 8th June – Brand Maggi – 20 years to build, 2 minutes to get destroyed! 

105. 1st June – 10 on 10 for the Modi govt on PR, but…

104. 25th May – If Public Relations cannot be measured, then what can be?

103. 18th May – To understand PR better, learn the definition of a religion 

102. 11th May – Three men who made news in interesting ways last week 

101. 4th May – Independent PR Firms are no different from holding company-owned firms

100. 27th April – Our biggest PR campaign would be a display of discipline 

99. 20th April – Why PR is never going to get its due for a long time? 

98. 13th April – Which are the good PR firms?

97. 6th April – The Aam Aadmi Party just did business

96. 30th March – Freedom of Speech and its implications

95. 23rd March –Where’s the Seat at the table?

94. 16th March – Has Public Relations lost its credibility?

93. 9th March – They don’t make editors like Vinod Mehta anymore

92. 2nd March – The art of Public Relations is changing

91. 23rd February – 30 under 30 and what they need to do

90. 16th February – Another election where Public Relations won

89. 9th February – Time for more meaningful Engagement with the most important stakeholders 

88. 2nd February – The PR Business in India needs a school of its own

87. 27th January – 15 people to watch out for in 2015

86. 19th January – Time for real Reputation Management professionals in Politics 

85. 12th January – 15 things we need to see in a PR Institute in 2015

84. 2015 5th January – Public Communications and Public Reputation – Perspectives for 2015 

83. 29th December – Fourteen must reads in 2014 

82. 22nd December – A book to remember because the PRactice of PR in India has so few 

81. 15th December – What to do when hit by a Reputation Crisis

80. 8th December – People make our business

79. 1st December – My PR Person of the Year

78. 24th November – The Rise of PR firms in India over the last two decades 

77. 17th November – How about a dedicated school for Reputation Management? 

76. 10th November – Media relationships will get increasingly complex in a cluttered world

75. 3rd November – Hiring journalists without training them is unfair to the profession and unjust to the individual

74. 27th October – The Public Relations Campaign brief

73. 20th October – Politics is all about Public Reputation as it is in everyday life and more

72. 13th October – We need to showcase our PR Icons

71. 6th October – Managing the three Es in PR

70. 29th September – (No column)

69. 22nd September – Public Reputation is a matter of PRide

68. 15th September – Getting professionals together is just half the work done

67. 8th September – Public Reputation in Politics

66. 1st September – The Public Reputation Alphabet

65. 25th August – Public Reputation cannot be built in a day

64. 18th August – Why is Public Reputation Management widely misunderstood 

63. 11th August – From Public Relations to Public Reputation

62. 4th August – The art of Public Relations – it is about practicing what we preach

61. 28th July – Positioning, Participating and Packaging and a night to remember 


60. 21st July – The vicious PR cycle of education, jobs and salaries 

59. 14th July – PRAXIS2014 is slicker, smarter and super

58. 7th July – The great PR place to work

57. 30th June – Whose Cannes Lion is it anyway?

56. 23rd June – Is a Cannes PR Lion within our reach? (blank column)

55. 16th June – The elusive Cannes Lion

54. 9th June – HR in Public Relations needs to do the right things to build a better reputation

53.2nd June – The exclusivity of exclusives

52. 26th May – The year flew by and we have a brand new government

51. 16th May – In the end Public Relations won! (Special edition)

50. 12th May – What corporate spokespersons can learn from the Narendra Modi interview on Times Now? 

49. 5th May – What’s new that PR folks can offer clients?

48. 28th Apr – The Accidental Media Advisor

47. 21st Apr – Four major international PR events not to miss in 2014 

46. 14th Apr – On the campaign trail – so much PR to learn

45.7th Apr – The Indian PR scene

44.31st Mar – The Public Relations in the aftermath of the tragedy of MH370

43.24th Mar –  Much action for Indian PR frat this year

42.17th Mar – Holiday (My blog on Raising money for a Cause)

41.10th Mar – The media gift conundrum

40.3rd Mar – 10 years as a PR practitioner

39.24th Feb – The crucible called Media Lists

38.17th Feb – Time to stand up for upright journalism

37.10th Feb – The need for an individual membership-driven PR association 

36.3rd Feb – What corporate spokespersons can learn from the historic Rahul Gandhi interview? 

35.27th Jan – The PR professional-Journalist changing equation

34.20th Jan – The Public Relations of Indian Politics

33.13th Jan – Time to protect our profession from quacks

32. 2014 6th Jan – 2014: A year that promises a lot of action

31.30th Dec – 13 PR savvy Indian events and people of 2013

30.23rd Dec – 13 PR savvy international events and people of 2013 

29.16th Dec – Reminiscences of the Global PR summit

28.9th Dec – PR lessons for AAP, BJP & Congress for the general elections

27.2nd Dec – Did you do things differently to be a better PR professional this year? 

26.25th Nov – It’s not about doing the right things, it’s about doing everything right 

25.18th Nov – Public Relations for dummies

24.11th Nov – What’s with the friction between Journalists and PR professionals? 

23.4th Nov –  Holiday (My blog on life in Edelman Chicago)

22.28th Oct – Public Relations and Bad Publicity

21.21st Oct – How Public Relations can win back the respect it deserves! 

20.14th Oct – How PR professionals can upgrade their skills

19.7th Oct – Beggars are not choosers but in Chicago they also know how not to be losers 

18.30th Sep – Musings from India’s only weekend summit for Public Relations

17.23rd Sep – Public Relations has a bigger stake in Social Media than any other stream 

16.16th Sep – How Storytelling has come to become the new buzzword in PR

15.9th Sep – Why our politicians must undertake media training

14.2nd  Sep – Bring back the Credible into Incredible India!

13.26th Aug – Modi’s online Public Relations campaign

12.19th Aug – How PR at a gigantic event is pulled through together… 

11.12th Aug – Learning Public Relations from the Pope

10.5th Aug – The next phase in the evolution of Public Relations

9.29th Jul – Events that make our profession worth being part of

8.22nd Jul – The 6 Cs that are the currency of being successful PR professionals 

7.15th Jul – 5 ways PR in US is different from that in India

6.8th Jul – One size does not fit all!

5.1st Jul – It’s time to give ace communicators their due

4.24th Jun – Why can’t our PR firms win PR Lions at Cannes?

3.17th Jun – Do you know who your biggest ambassador is? (Employee Engagement)

2.10th Jun – The case for Public Relations in governance

1.  2013 – 3rd Jun – To new beginnings!

Elections are fascinating – here is the 2014 schedule

March 5, 2014


India, world’s largest democracy, is once again ready to witness the power of votes. The Election Commission on March 5 announced the schedule for Lok Sabha polls 2014. Polling will be held in nine phases from April 07 to May 12 and the counting of votes will be held on May 16.

General Elections phase-wise schedule:

Phase 1: April 7 in two states

Phase 2: April 9 – five states

Phase 3: April 10 – 14 states

Phase 4: April 12 – three states

Phase 5: April 17 – 13 states

Phase 6: April 24 – 12 states

Phase 7: April 30 – nine states

Phase 8: May 7 – seven states

Phase 9: May 12 – 3 states.

State-wise schedule: 

Andhra Pradesh (40 seats): April 30 (17 seats), May 7 (25)

Arunachal Pradesh (2): April 9

Assam (14): April 7 (5), April 12 (3), April 24 (6)

Bihar (40): April 10 (6), 17 (7), 24 (7), 30 (7), May 7 (7), 12 (6)

Chhattisgarh (11): April 10 (1), 17 (3), 24 (7)

Goa (2): April 17 (2)

Gujarat (26): April 30 (26)

Haryana (10): April 10 (10)

Himachal Pradesh (4): May 7 (4)

Jammu and Kashmir (6): April 10 (1), 17 (1), 24 (1), 30 (1), May 7 (2)

Jharkhand (14): April 10 (5), 17 (5), 24 (4)

Karnataka (28) – April17 (28)

Kerala (20): April 10 (20)

Madhya Pradesh (29): April 10 (9), 17 (10), 24 (10)

Maharashtra (48): April 10 (10), 17 (19), 24 (19)

Manipur (2): April 9 (1), 17 (1)

Meghalaya (2): April 9 (2)

Mizoram (1): April 9 (1)

Nagaland (1): April 9 (1)

Odisha (21): April 10 (10), 17 (11)

Punjab (13): April 30 (13)

Rajasthan (25): April 17 (20), 24 (5)

Sikkim (1): April 12 (1)

Tamil Nadu (39): April 24 (39)

Tripura (2): April 7 (1), 12 (1)

Uttar Pradesh (80): April 10 (10), 17 (11), 24 (12), 30 (14), May 7 (15), 12 (18)

Uttarakhand (5): May 7 (5)

West Bengal (42): April 17 (4), 24 (6), 30 (9), May 7 (6), 12 (17)

Union Territories

Andaman and Nicobar Islands (1): April 10 (1)

Chandigarh (1): April 10 (1)

Dadra and Nagar Haveli (1): April 30 (1)

Daman and Diu (1): April 30 (1)

Lakshadweep (1): April 10 (1)

Delhi (7): April 10 (7)

Puducherry (1): April 24 (1)

Assembly elections:

Andhra Pradesh including Telangana region: April 30, May 7

Odisha: April 10, 17

Sikkim: April 12

Also Read: Salient features of India’s general election

The schedule was announced by Chief Election Commissioner V S Sampath along with Election Commissioners H S Brahma and Dr Nasim Zaidi at a press conference held at Vigyan Bhavan in the national capital.

The elections would see more than 81.4 crore voters exercise their ballot; the number of voters is 10 crore more than the last general election held in 2009. The term of the current Lok Sabha expires on June 1 and the new House has to be constituted by May 31.

Sampath said that the EC had taken into consideration factors like examination schedules and weather conditions.

The EC said that electoral roll have already been updated till January 1, 2014 and final rolls have been published in all states.

However, the EC has offered one more opportunity to enroll in the electoral rolls. Camps would be set up on March 9 at all polling booths – around 9,30,000 – across the country to allow people to enroll themselves, the EC said.

The Model Code of Conduct for governments and political parties will come into force with immediate effect.

On the security measures being implemented by the EC, Sampath said, “To ensure free and fair elections we have taken particular care to ensure that people living in vulnerable areas and vulnerable voters are in continuous touch with the election machinery to ensure that they are able to vote uninterpreted by anyone.”

“Adequate number of observers in different categories will be deployed during the forthcoming elections,” he added.

On the neutrality of officials engaged in conduct of elections, Sampath said the EC expects them to discharge their duty without fear or favour.

“Strict action will be taken against officials who are found wanting in any aspect,” the CEC said.

With regards to the steps being taken to curb use of money power in the elections, he said, “The Election Commission has mounted a series of measures for monitoring expenditure; special emphasis is given to check flow of money during elections.”

“Besides expenditure observers, sufficient number of flying squads will be employed to check use of money power,” he added.

An important feature of the polls would be the introduction of paper trail system for electronic voting in some constituencies on a trial basis.

Also, the EC has issued guidelines to political parties asking them to explain the rationale of financing the promises they make in their election manifestos. The guidelines that followed Supreme Court directions in this regard have now been made part of the Model Code.

Another first in the Lok Sabha elections will be the introduction of “None of the Above” (NOTA) option in voting, which came into vogue in the assembly elections a few months ago.

From the coming elections, candidates in a parliamentary constituency in bigger states can spend up to Rs 70 lakh on their campaign, up from Rs 40 lakh in 2011. In the 2009 elections, it was Rs 25 lakh.