Himachal polls on November 9: EC
Belying speculations, the Election Commission on Thursday announced elections only for Himachal Pradesh, holding back Gujarat’s schedule for a later date.
A single-phase election will be held for the 68 Assembly constituencies of Himachal Pradesh on November 9, while the counting of votes will be taken up on December 18, Chief Election Commissioner Achal Kumar Joti said.
“This is being done to ensure that the voting pattern of one state does not affect the other... polling in Gujarat will be held before December 18 (when Himachal results are announced),” Joti said.
The term of the 182-member Gujarat Assembly ends on January 22, while the term of the 68-member Himachal Pradesh assembly ends 15 days before, on January 7.
Parrying questions if the announcement of Gujarat polls has been delayed to accommodate Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s rally likely to be held on October 16, Joti said, “Prime Minister’s Gujarat visit is not a factor at all.”
He said it has been done keeping in mind an earlier Punjab and Haryana High Court order and a subsequent Law Ministry order that there should ideally be 46 days of gap between the Model Code of Conduct coming into effect and the polling date.
“The imposition of Model Code with immediate effect would stop all government work and there was no need to prolong it beyond the required period,” said Joti.
He added that elections in two states — Himachal and Gujarat —were announced separately in the past too, including in 1993, 1994 and 2002.
It can be brought forward or postponed by four or 5 days but cannot be too long or too short, explained Joti, citing Gujarat chief secretary’s request for more time to repair roads, provide relief and rehabilitation because of floods in July and availability crunch of the Central Armed Police Forces (CAPFs) as other reasons for delay in the announcement.
Joti, flanked by Election Commissioners O P Rawat and Sunil Arora, said the last date for filing of nominations for Himachal Pradesh is October 23. After scrutiny on October 24, the last date for withdrawal of nominations is October 26, he said.
For the first time, the Election Commission is setting up 136 all-women-managed polling stations in Himachal Pradesh, with each constituency having two all-women polling stations.
VVPAT (vote verifiable paper audit trail) machines will be deployed along with EVMs in all the 7,521 polling stations, including 42 auxiliary ones at remote places. One VVPAT from each constituency will be selected randomly to match its paper slips with the results of the corresponding ballot unit.
This matching is being done on a pilot basis in these elections and will be increased in subsequent elections to put more faith among people about the fairness of election process, Joti said.
The Commission has also increased the size of the VVPAT paper trail screen so that the voters can easily see if their vote has gone to their chosen candidate or party.
The CEC said voter assistance booth will also be set up and the size of the standardised voting compartment will also be increased, keeping in mind the introduction of paper trail machines.
Each candidate will have to maintain a separate account of poll expenses, which have been capped at a maximum of Rs 28 lakh for Himachal Pradesh. However, the candidate will have to submit the expenses to the returning officer within 30 days after the declaration of results.
Chief Election Commissioner AK Joti, with commissioner Sunil Arora