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Himachal elections on November 12, EC holds back dates for Gujarat

The Model Code of Conduct will be in effect in the state from Monday after the official notification for the election is published. The filing of nomination for candidates will begin October 17 and continue until October 25.

Chief Election Commissioner Rajiv Kumar addressing a press conference in New Delhi on Friday. (Express/Prem Nath Pandey)

Elections to the Himachal Pradesh Assembly will take place on November 12 in single-phase polling for all 68 constituencies, followed by counting of votes on December 8, the Election Commission of India announced Friday.

The Model Code of Conduct will be in effect in the state from Monday after the official notification for the election is published. The filing of nomination for candidates will begin October 17 and continue until October 25.

“To the festive month of October, we are going to add the festival of democracy,” Chief Election Commissioner Rajiv Kumar told reporters while announcing the election schedule.

Dates for the much anticipated Gujarat elections were, however, not announced. The state Assembly’s term ends on February 18, 2023.

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“We are following past precedent in keeping the announcement of dates for Gujarat in abeyance for now,” the CEC said. Announcement of multiple state polls together, he said, leads to longer wait-time for the declaration of results for some.

This is the third time since 1998 that the announcement of Gujarat Assembly elections has been de-linked from that of Himachal Pradesh. Polls were conducted simultaneously in Gujarat and Himachal Pradesh in 1998, 2007 and 2012, but were held separately in 2002-03, after the Gujarat Assembly was prematurely dissolved soon after the Godhra riots.

In 2017, the EC decided to separate the two to avoid imposing the MCC for an unreasonably long time. This year too, it used a similar line to justify the delinking.

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Rajiv Kumar told reporters that since the terms of the two Assemblies were expiring 40 days apart, the Commission decided to follow the example set in 2017.

The EC normally holds elections together in states where incumbent governments are completing their five-year terms within six months, and announces the poll dates for these states simultaneously.

In Himachal Pradesh, there are 1.86 lakh first-time voters, 1.22 lakh who are aged 80-plus and 1,184 voters who are above 100 years of age, the EC said.

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Kumar said the Commission has been consulting political parties about poll manifestos. “The feasibility of any election promise must be explained,” he said on the ‘freebies’ promised by parties.

In order to keep the election free from such inducement, the CEC said banks have been asked not to carry any cash between 5 pm and 10 am during the election period. “It has been noticed that using the same cash vans, some people might try to move cash illegally,” he said.

Similarly, airports and e-way bills will be monitored in poll-bound states to check for any spurt in the movement of consumer goods that could be used to induce voters, he said.

The MCC period has also been reduced from 70 days to 57 as, the EC said, it does not want the code to be in force over too long a period.

Along with convention, the EC has also taken into account weather conditions in the hill state while zeroing in on the dates. “There are parts of Himachal, especially the upper reaches, which are covered in snow during peak winter,” the CEC said.

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To contain the effect of fake news influencing voters, the EC has also set up its social media teams that will be on the lookout for such material on the internet, Kumar said.

Regarding any Covid protocol, which dominated election processes over the past two years, Kumar said they have held consultations with the Union Health Ministry as well as the states.

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“Covid does not seem to be that much of a concern now. However, states have been asked to follow the five-fold strategy for Covid containment. People are advised to follow the Health Ministry advisory,” he said.

He also referred to the mobile apps of the EC for various purposes, including complaints of violation of the code, facilitation of voters with disabilities and of elderly voters, especially those between 80 and 100 years of age, for whom, if so desired, the EC arranges home visits to collect their votes. The facility will also be extended to Covid-infected voters, if they so desire.

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Meanwhile, the Congress questioned why the schedule for Assembly elections in Gujarat had not been announced with that of Himachal Pradesh.

“Obviously this has been done to give more time to the PM to make some mega promises and carry out more inaugurations. Not at all surprising,” Jairam Ramesh, AICC general secretary in charge of Communication, said in a Twitter post.

Gujarat Congress party spokesperson Manish Doshi said, “Although polling dates for Gujarat have not been announced, it is obvious that the counting of votes in Gujarat will also take place alongside Himachal Pradesh on December 8. In such a scenario, shouldn’t the Prime Minister show large heartedness and stop spending government money in organising events in Gujarat?”.

AAP national joint general secretary Isudan Gadhvi said, “They (BJP) have some recruitment remaining, some damage control, some rallies and meetings, they want time. They are badly scared of AAP.”

First published on: 14-10-2022 at 10:16 IST
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