UP election in Feb-Mar? EC tells govt to change dates for board exams
Will the Uttar Pradesh assembly elections be held through February and March, or April and May?
The Election Commission (EC) on Friday directed the state government to send across a fresh schedule of the high school and intermediate board examinations by December 15, generating widespread speculation on likely dates for the upcoming polls. Jitendra Kumar, principal secretary of the state secondary education department, said the Uttar Pradesh Madhyamik Shiksha Parishad (UPMSP) had earlier announced that the board examinations would be held from February 16 to March 20.
“However, in keeping with the EC’s directive, the UPMSP will prepare a fresh schedule and send it to the poll panel for approval,” he added.
The UPMSP had announced on Thursday that the board examination would be held from February 16 to March 20. Almost immediately, the EC directed state chief secretary Rahul Bhatnagar to put the schedule on hold. The development spurred speculations in political circles that the assembly polls would be held in the February-March period, considering that the EC had asked the UP government to not hold the board examinations around that time.
State government officials will meet members of the EC at New Delhi on December 15 to discuss the matter. Kumar said the state government will ensure that the examinations don’t clash with the election schedule, which is expected to be announced by the electoral body at the absolute fag end of the year.
An official present at the meeting said on the condition of anonymity that the EC is likely to announce the assembly election schedule by December 25, and polling would be undertaken between February and March. “The EC directed us to place the board examination schedule on hold because it is mulling over the polling dates in UP and four other states (Punjab, Uttarakhand, Manipur and Goa). All the five states will go to the polls early next year,” he added.
However, other sources said the poll dates could even be declared in early January.
State chief electoral officer T Venkatesh confirmed the directive issued to the state government. “The EC also asked the UPMSP to announce a fresh board examination schedule after holding consultations with it. Secondary education director Amar Nath Verma was asked to ensure this,” he said.
Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) chief Mayawati has already directed party workers to gear up for the winter polls, taking the lead over rival parties. Leaving nothing to chance, she has finalised candidates for 403 assembly seats and addressed nearly six rallies across the state to galvanise the party cadre.
“We are ready for an early election,” said BSP national general secretary Naseemuddin Siddiqui.
SK Prasad, a political observer, said chief election commissioner Nasim Zaidi had expressed the desire to increase the poll percentage from 60% in 2012 to 75% in 2017 during his visit to Lucknow this September. “Voter count will rise if the election is held during the winter,” he had said.
The recent deputation of Venkatesh to New Delhi also added to the speculation over the election dates. Unconfirmed reports suggest that the state government gave the nod for the CEO’s central posting, so the new appointee would have time to make preparations if the election was to be held in May.