EC decision to not announce Gujarat poll date intriguing

Election Commission of India
The Election Commission (EC) has announced the date for the assembly poll in Himachal Pradesh. It will be held on November 9. The counting of votes will be on December 18. The EC didn’t announce the date for the poll in Gujarat. Chief Election Commissioner Achal Kumar Joti, however, said the counting for Gujarat assembly poll will also be on December 18.

Polling dates for Himachal Pradesh and Gujarat have been announced on the same day by the EC in both 2007 and 2012. The Opposition has criticized the EC decision to not announce Gujarat poll date.

A couple of hours before the EC announcing the dates, the Gujarat government announced a several decisions for the Patidar community, the Valmiki community, government employees and the builder lobby. The decisions included the state government withdrawing cases against the Patidar community that were lodged during the agitation.

Congress spokesperson Randeep Singh Surjewala has said the Gujarat dates have not been announced since the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) is nervous about its prospects in the state and it is an attempt to give Prime Minister Narendra Modi an opportunity to announce more sops at his party’s Gujarat Gaurav Yatra on October 16. He has demanded the EC should explain its decision to the people of India.

The Communist Party of India (Marxist) polit bureau termed the EC announcement strange. It said the model code of conduct is now enforced for Himachal and not for Gujarat. “The Chief Election Commissioner has announced that the Gujarat polls will be held before the results of the Himachal Pradesh elections are declared on December 18. This is even stranger if Gujarat assembly elections are to be completed before December 18, then the model code of conduct must be applicable to that state as well,” it said on Friday.

Former chief election commissioner SY Quraishi has said the EC’s decision raises “some serious questions” since the terms of the two assemblies almost coincide and wondered why the EC should have announced the dates separately. The Himachal Pradesh assembly's term ends on January 7, that of Gujarat's on January 22.

But the Chief Election Commissioner has argued that this has meant a longer duration of the enforcement of the model code of conduct in Gujarat.

The model code of conduct in Gujarat and Himachal Pradesh was in force for 83 days in 2007 and 2012, which Joti said obstructed governance. The CEC said the entire election scheduled should not exceed 46-days. He also pointed to a letter from the Gujarat chief secretary that the EC has received, which has sought time for distribution of flood relief.

Conventionally, the EC announces polling dates for assemblies going for polls within weeks of each other on the same day. For example, it announced the polling dates for elections to Uttar Pradesh, Punjab, Goa, Manipur and Uttarakhand on January 4.

Congress Vice President Rahul Gandhi received a good response during his visit to Gujarat this week. Some in the Patidar community are upset with the BJP, while the Centre has tried to soothe ruffled feathers in the business community by announcing relaxations in the goods and services tax (GST) rates. The BJP has given itself a target of 150+ seats in the 182-seat assembly.

While the EC’s decision is a tad intriguing, the BJP is hard at work to win Gujarat yet again.

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