Himachal assembly polls on Nov 9; Cong questions delay in Guj
ASSEMBLY elections in Himachal Pradesh will be held in a single phase on November 9 and the results will be declared on December 18, the Election Commission announced on Wednesday.
The schedule for Gujarat will be announced separately but assembly elections in the state will be held before December 18, Chief Election Commissioner AK Joti said at a press conference. “This is being done to ensure that the voting pattern of one state does not affect the other state... Polling in Gujarat will be held before December 18,” he said.
While the tenure of the Himachal assembly ends on January 7, 2018, the Gujarat assembly term ends on January 22. “The Model Code of Conduct comes into force immediately,” Joti said. The Model Code of Conduct will be applicable for Himachal Pradesh as well as for the Union government in matters related to the state. The poll process in Himachal Pradesh will start with the issue of the gazette notification on October 23 when candidates can start filing their nominations.
Joti, who was flanked by Election Commissioners OP Rawat and Sunil Arora, said the last date for filing of nominations is October 23. After scrutiny on October 24, the last date for withdrawal of nominations is October 26, he said.
Himachal Pradesh will be the second state after Goa with 100 per cent VVPAT (paper trail of votes) coverage. The VVPAT machines will be deployed along with EVMs in all the 7,521 polling stations, including 42 auxiliary polling stations at remote places. Joti said VVPAT machines from one polling booth in each of the 68 constituencies will be tallied with EVM results to check the vote count.
In a first for the state, the EC will set up 136 allwomen managed polling booths in Himachal. Each constituency will have two women. The Commission has also increased the size of the VVPAT paper trail screen, where voters can see who they have voted for. Joti said photo electoral rolls will be used for Himachal polls and photo identity cards have been issued to all voters. He said voter slips will be distributed to each voter in the state seven days before the polls along with a voter guide brochure.
The CEC said voter assistance booths will also be set up and the size of the standardised voting compartment will also be increased from 24 inches to 30 inches, keeping in mind the introduction of paper trail machines. Each candidate contesting the poll 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 election expenses to the returning officer within 30 days after the declaration of results.
The poll panel will also use social media in these elections and has already sensitised the election staff in this regard as well as on the issue of paid news and pre-certification of ads and bulk SMSes. The EC will ensure timely payment of all goods and services through e-payment gateway for all election related duties in the hill state.
Asked why elections in Gujarat had not been announced simultaneously, he said the imposition of the Model Code with immediate effect would stop all government work and there was no need to prolong it beyond the required period. The CEC said elections to the two states were announced separately in the past too, including in 1993, 1994 and 2002. Besides the issues of availability of central forces and the festive season, the Gujarat government had told the EC that relief works were on in the state following the July floods, he said.
The Congress too questioned the delay and alleged that it was to enable PM Modi to act as a “false Santa Claus to offer sops and use jumlas” (rhetoric) during his October 16 visit to the state. The model code of conduct would have come into immediate effect in Gujarat had the poll schedule been announced, it said.
“It is now clear that the Modi government and the BJP are putting pressure on the EC to defer announcement of Gujarat poll along with Himachal, to suit their political ends”
AK Joti, Sunil Arora and O P Rawat (L) at the press conference in New Delhi