Defending the Election Commission’s decision to hold elections in Himachal Pradesh earlier than Gujarat, Chief Election Commissioner Achal Kumar Joti on Monday said the state administration and political parties requested the poll panel to hold early elections on account of snowfall affecting three districts in Himachal.
Speaking to news agency ANI, Joti said the weather was one of the multiple factors, including flood relief work in Gujarat, that had come into play while preparing the dates.
“When we went to Himachal Pradesh, the state election commission there, political parties and the state administration had requested that on account of likelihood of snowfall, three districts – Kinnaur, Lahaul Spiti and Chamba – are likely to experience snowfall. Therefore, a request made to conduct the elections in early November so that voters do not get affected and can cast their votes,” said Joti.
He reiterated that the EC is committed to holding elections in Himachal Pradesh in such a way that “the outcome of the result should not affect the voting in Gujarat.”
“Another main reason is that Himachal and Gujarat are not adjoining states. If multiple states go for polls, they are adjoining states. The EC has always made sure that the voting pattern of one state does not affect the voting pattern of another state, and that is why the counting period in Himachal Pradesh has been kept on 18th December 2017. We had stated that we would plan the election schedule in Gujarat in such a way that polling in Gujarat is over prior to Himachal Pradesh Assembly election result so that the outcome of the result should not affect the voting in Gujarat,” Joti told ANI.
The CEC, citing an office memorandum issued by Ministry of Law and Justice in 2001 and approved by the Supreme Court, said, “The commission shall announce the date of any election which shall be a date ordinarily not more than three weeks prior to the date on which the notification is likely to be issued in wake of elections. The day we make the announcement, the model code of conduct is applied from that day till the poll is over. So, if the states share the border, it should have been an issue, but with Gujarat, the situation is very different.”
On Gujarat floods, Joti stated that the EC wants to avoid a situation where government employees engaged in restoration work would need to abandon their work for election duty.
In July, parts of Gujarat were ravaged by incessant rains and floods that claimed more than 200 lives.
“And at a time when restoration work is done, it involves a lot of government force. A total of 26443 employees of the state government will be given election duties. So the staff, which manages the restoration work will only be assigned the election duties as we don’t supply staff,” he said.
“So, once the moral code of conduct is implemented these government employees will have to leave all the revamping and start performing their duties in connection with elections,” he added.