The coming Assembly elections in four states are being delinked with Maharashtra and Haryana likely to go to polls first in the third week of October. The other two states–Jammu and Kashmir and Jharkhand– may witness elections in late December-early January.
The Election Commission is working on the schedules and may announce the programme for Maharashtra and Haryana by the middle of September, highly placed sources said. Hectic discussions are on between the Commission and the Union Home Ministry on assessing the requirement of forces and their allocation.
Sensitive and hyper sensitive constituencies are being identified so that adequate forces can be deployed to ensure free and fair polls without violence. The tenure of the 288-member Maharashtra Assembly comes to an end on November 8, while that of the 90-member Haryana House will end on October 27.
The sources said the schedule is being worked so that it would not clash with the current 10-day Ganesh Chaturthi celebrations in Maharashtra and the subsequent Navratri and Dussehra celebrations that end on October 3. They said the Commission hopes to complete the polls in the two states before Diwali which falls on October 24.
The sources said the attempt was to see that the fortnight-long campaign period does not fall in the period of religious celebrations. The elections are being delinked because of the requirement of paramilitary forces, which is more in the case of Jharkhand, which faces Maoist insurgency, and Jammu and Kashmir that has been dealing with militancy problem for long.
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In the last elections, Jammu and Kashmir witnessed a seven-phased polling, while in Jharkhand it was spread over five phases. The revision of rolls in Jammu and Kashmir is currently on and is expected to be over by the first week of October.
The cut-off date for eligibility in Jammu and Kashmir will be October one, 2014. The electoral rolls in Jammu and Kashmir have a special provision for four cut-off dates for revision –January one, April one, July one and October one.
The election schedule in Maharashtra and Haryana is being planned in such a way that electioneering is avoided during festive seasons. Attempts to invoke religion could also be checked by this, the sources said. The Commission also wants to see that the period between the announcement of the election and completion of the process is not unduly long so that governance process is not affected.
Along with the announcement of the schedule, the EC normally puts in place the Model Code of Conduct that puts fetters on governments undertaking new schemes and projects and also taking policy decisions during the election period.