Election Commission announces poll dates for 5 states between Nov 12 and Dec 7, counting on Dec 11
Assembly elections in Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, Chhattisgarh, Mizoram and Telangana will be held in four phases between November 12 and December 7.
Assembly elections in Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, Chhattisgarh, Mizoram and Telangana will be held in four phases between November 12 and December 7, the Election Commission of India announced on Saturday, setting the stage for the polls that will serve as a precursor to the 2019 general election. The announcement acquired a tinge of controversy after being delayed by two-and-a-half hours.
Elections to the 90-member Chhattisgarh legislative assembly will be held in two phases on November 12 and 20. Madhya Pradesh,where the assembly has 230 seats, will go to the polls on November 28. The term of the Madhya Pradesh assembly, where the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) is in power, expires on January 7.
Addressing a press conference in New Delhi, chief election commissioner OP Rawat said 18 constituencies in the southern part of Chhattisgarh where Maoist rebels have a presence will vote on November 12 and the remaining 72 on November 20.
Mizoram, the smallest of the poll-bound states with 40 assembly seats, will hold the elections on November 28. The tenure of the Mizoram Assembly is till December 15.
Elections to the 200-member Rajasthan assembly will be held on December 7. The term of the incumbent BJP government in the state expires on January 20. The 119-member Telangana legislative assembly will also go to polls on December 7. The polls in Telangana were necessitated by chief minister K Chandrasekhar Rao’s decision to dissolve the assembly in September, paving the way for early elections. The Congress and the Telugu Desam Party have announced a tie-up in the state to take on Rao’s Telangana Rashtra Samithi.
Counting of votes will be held across all the five states and results declared on December 11, Rawat said.
The state polls will lead up to next year’s general elections. Especially crucial are the three states in the Hindi-speaking heartland — Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh — where the Congress party is making a determined attempt to unseat the incumbent BJP governments. Mizoram is ruled by the Congress party.
Rajya Sabha MP and BJP spokesperson Anil Baluni said his party is confident of retaining power in Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh and Rajasthan. “We are much ahead of our competition in terms of election preparedness...We will break this myth that no party returns to power in Rajasthan. We were a credible opposition in Telangana and this time we are fighting to form government. We will also emerge stronger in Mizoram. We are aiming for a 5-0 victory.”
Congress spokesperson Pranav Jha said his party has learnt from past mistakes. “The announcement of assembly elections today is also the beginning of the countdown to the BJP’s ouster from the three states...The result is going to be distressing for BJP leadership.”
The model code of conduct, a set of guidelines laid down by the election commission to govern the conduct of political parties and candidates in the run-up to election, which is already in force in Telangana, took effect in the other four states with the announcement of the poll schedule on Saturday.
The EC had initially proposed to hold a press conference to make the announcement at 12.30pm but deferred the event to 3pm, triggering criticism from the opposition Congress.
Congress spokesperson Randeep Singh Surjewala had tweeted that the delay was designed to give Prime Minister Narendra Modi a free hand to make announcements at an election meeting that he was to address in Rajasthan’s Ajmer. “Independence of ECI?” Surjewala tweeted after pointing to the change in the timing of the press conference.
Modi made no announcement, but chief minister Vasundhara Raje announced waiver on electricity bills of up to Rs 10,000 per annum for farmers just ahead of the imposition of the model code.
The code , which kicks in as soon as the election commission announces the poll schedule, bars government functionaries from making any announcements that can influence voters.
Rawat, however,denied the Congress allegation. “Politicians and political parties are political creatures and they see politics in everything because of their inherent nature,” he said, attributing the change in timing to certain technical reasons.
The CEC on Saturday also announced that by-polls in Shimoga, Bellary and Mandya in Karnataka would be held on 3 November.