Assembly elections in Jammu and Kashmir and Jharkhand will be held in five phases between November 25 and December 20, it was announced on Saturday. Votes will be counted on December 23.
Jharkhand and Jammu and Kashmir will vote on November 25, December 2, December 9, December 14 and December 20, Chief Election Commissioner VS Sampath said at a press conference in New Delhi. By-elections to three Delhi assembly constituencies--which fell vacant after BJP legislators got elected to Lok Sabha--would also be held on November 25.
The BJP has high stakes in these polls: it hopes to form a majority government in Jharkhand, emerge as a strong player in J-K and retain all three assembly seats of Delhi that would keep the hope of government formation in the national capital alive.
The Congress is hard pressed to retain Jharkhand and J-K after losing Maharashtra and Haryana to the Narendra Modi-led BJP. Its alliance with the National Conference (NC) in J-K broke up ahead of the elections and there is no clarity on whether it will go along with the Jharkhand Mukti Morcha (JMM) in the tribal state. Losses in J-K and Jharkhand would mean further marginalisation for India's grand old party, barely months after it was reduced to just 44 seats in the Lok Sabha.
Flood-hit Jammu and Kashmir
The ruling NC heads into the polls reluctantly, having asked for a deferment owing to floods that devastated the state.
The opposition Peoples Democratic Party would believe time is ripe to oust the NC. The BJP too would rate its chances bright, particularly after a strong showing in the parliamentary polls.
The PDP and the BJP won three Lok Sabha seats each, blanking out the NC and the Congress.
The BJP would be hopeful of a better performance in Jammu and Buddhist-dominated Ladakh, but the Valley must be a priority to achieve the majority mark of 44 in the 87-member assembly.
Hobbled by the floods, the NC would also face heat over street agitations, killing of youth, unemployment and even charges of corruption in the state's cricket association as the elections approach.
After floods, J-K to brave cold for polls
The hanging of Parliament attack convict Afzal Guru too is expected to cast an emotive shadow on the elections.
The JMM-led alliance with the Congress and the Rashtriya Janata Dal has been in power for the last one-and-a-half years in Jharkhand, where the BJP must be fancying its chances of regaining power.
The BJP has not projected a 'face' in Jharkhand, but it has indicated a non-tribal may become the chief minister if party gets the majority. Every CM in the state has been a tribal.
In parliamentary polls earlier this year, the BJP won 12 out of the state's 14 seats. Modi had addressed nine rallies in Jharkhand ahead of the national elections and the state party unit, which has tasted power intermittently, would be hoping for an encore.
The BJP's performance in the Lok Sabha elections, computed across the state's 81 assembly seats, shows an impressive lead in 56 (70%) out of 81 seats with second position in 23 seats. Only in the remaining two seats, the party stands third. The majority mark is 41.
After 2004 and 2009, this will be the third assembly elections in Jharkhand, which has thrown up fractured mandates and seen political instability under coalition rules since its creation in 2000. No party has ever got a majority in the tribal state that has seen nine different governments and President's rule on three occasions.
Ruling front faces confident BJP in unstable Jharkhand