Gujarat polls to be announced soon, voting likely by December 4 | India News
NEW DELHI: Assembly polls in Gujarat will be announced soon, with voting likely to be held in one or two phases and completed by December 4, followed by counting alongside Himachal, Election Commission sources indicated.
Though the term of the current Gujarat assembly expires only on February 18 next year, polls in the state will be held earlier to avoid any impact of Himachal results on level-playing field, they said.
Though Himachal has so far seen direct contest between BJP and Congress, AAP has tried to make it a triangular one this time. For nearly 37 years, BJP and Congress have switched benches in the state alternately every five years. But under PM Narendra Modi, BJP is hoping to defy this pattern.
Also, the contest in Himachal this time will be in the absence of familiar faces who have dominated the state’s politics for years. While Congress member and ex-CM Vir Bhadra Singh is no more, BJP’s Shanta Kumar, who has also been CM, is out of action due to advancing age. Another ex-CM, Prem Kumar Dhumal, who was BJP’s face in last polls, is out of contention after his shock defeat.
In 2017, EC had, under then chief election commissioner AK Joti, announced Himachal polls on October 13 and Gujarat polls separately on October 25. While Himachal polls were held in a single phase on November 9, Gujarat polls followed in two phases on December 9 and 14. Counting for both the states was taken up simultaneously on December 18.
CEC Rajiv Kumar on Friday said the poll panel decided to follow the convention of last time (2017) to delink the announcement of Himachal elections from Gujarat, going by factors such as the 40-day gap between end of terms of the Gujarat and Himachal assemblies, imminent onset of snow in Himachal’s upper reaches and the need to curtail the model code of conduct (MCC) period. He said the MCC period (gap between announcement and counting) has thus been cut to 57 days in Himachal’s case from 70 days in 2017 and 81 (when Gujarat and Himachal polls were held together) in 2012. Also, the people of Himachal will have to wait for two weeks less for results as compared to 2017. “We followed the convention of 2017 and refined it further,” said Kumar.
When contacted, AK Joti, who as CEC had announced the 2017 polls in Himachal and Gujarat within days of each other and invited allegations of allowing time to the party in power to announce last-minute sops, said there is no pressing need to club polls in two states as these are not geographically contiguous and fall in different agro-climatic zones. “Himachal polls can’t be held in extreme winter due to snow. There is no such limitation in the case of Gujarat. In 2017, we delinked the poll announcement for the two states as Gujarat government had sought time to complete ongoing relief work following heavy rains and also as we wanted to ensure that MCC, in line with SC judgments, didn’t extend beyond 46 days,” he said.
As regards the convention of tying up polls in states with closely-timed expiry of their assemblies, CEC Kumar said the assembly terms in West Bengal, Tamil Nadu, Kerala, Assam and Puducherry, which went to polls together in 2021, were ending over a span of 10-15 days. In the last round of polls in UP, Uttarakhand, Punjab, Goa and Manipur, the terms of the assemblies other than UP were ending in span of a week.