Hi­machal polls on Nov 9, Gu­jarat dates soon: EC

Hindustan Times (Chandigarh) - - FRONT PAGE - Sm­riti Kak Ra­machan­dran

NEWDELHI: Elec­tions to pick a new leg­isla­tive as­sem­bly for Hi­machal Pradesh will be held on Novem­ber 9, the Elec­tion Com­mis­sion an­nounced on Thurs­day. Re­sults will be de­clared on De­cem­ber 18.

Chief elec­tion com­mis­sioner AK Joti said as­sem­bly polls in Gu­jarat will be held be­fore De­cem­ber 18 but he did not an­nounce the dates.

Re­sults for both the states are likely to be de­clared on the same date. The polls are seen as a barom­e­ter of sup­port for Prime Min­is­ter Naren­dra Modi at a time when a sput­ter­ing econ­omy has handed the op­po­si­tion Con­gress party a pos­si­ble open­ing to re­gain po­lit­i­cal ground.

In par­tic­u­lar, the con­test in Gu­jarat, Modi’s home state where the BJP has been in power for 22 years, will be keenly watched for signs of voter re­ac­tion to some of his rad­i­cal eco­nomic poli­cies that made do­ing busi­ness far more com­pli­cated, es­pe­cially for small and medium com­pa­nies.

How­ever, the BJP will take heart from the fact that Modi’s pub­lic ap­proval re­mains as high

as ever, ev­i­dent from the party’s stun­ning vic­tory in the bell­wether state of Ut­tar Pradesh early this year.

The Con­gress trained its guns on the BJP govern­ment, ac­cus­ing it of “putting pres­sure” on the poll panel to de­fer an­nounce­ment of elec­tion dates in Gu­jarat to “suit” its po­lit­i­cal ends. The party said im­ple­men­ta­tion of the code of con­duct has been de­ferred to al­low Modi’s rally in the state.

Joti said the com­mis­sion had re­ceived a rep­re­sen­ta­tion from Gu­jarat seek­ing more time be­fore the model code of con­duct is en­forced, which is from the date of an­nounce­ment of elec­tions till the re­sults are an­nounced. Gov­ern­ments are barred from mak­ing any an­nounce­ments that can im­pact elec­tion out­come.

Joti quoted the state ad­min­is­tra­tion as say­ing it was in the process of com­plet­ing re­lief and re­ha­bil­i­ta­tion works in the af­ter­math of July’s floods that killed more than 200 peo­ple and ne­ces­si­tated re­lo­ca­tion of 45 vil­lages.

In the last round of as­sem­bly elec­tions in five states, es­pe­cially in Ut­tar Pradesh, the BJP had pro­jected the re­sults as a vin­di­ca­tion of the NDA govern­ment’s de­mon­eti­sa­tion gam­bit.

How­ever, the elec­tions for the 68-mem­ber Hi­machal as­sem­bly and the 182 mem­ber Gu­jarat as­sem­bly could be­come a test of pub­lic sup­port for the GST that trig­gered protests by traders in Gu­jarat. Con­gress vice pres­i­dent Rahul Gandhi has given in­di­ca­tions of the party’s poll planks, at­tack­ing the NDA govern­ment over an eco­nomic slow­down, lack of em­ploy­ment op­por­tu­ni­ties, hasty rollout of the GST and the plight of farm­ers, labour­ers and small traders and busi­ness­men.

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