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Election Commission on extended holiday, says Chidambaram

Calls into question poll panel’s autonomy for delay in scheduling Gujarat Assembly elections.

Questions about the autonomy of the Election Commission of India took the political centre stage on Friday with Congress leader and former Home Minister P. Chidambaram accusing it of going on an “extended holiday” over the delay in announcing dates for the Gujarat elections.

In tweets laced with sarcasm, Mr. Chidamabaram said: “EC has authorised PM to announce date of Gujarat elections at his last rally (and kindly keep EC informed).”

The senior Congress leader tweeted, "EC will be recalled from its extended holiday after Gujarat Govt has announced all concessions and freebies."

As soon as the dates of elections are announced, the model code of conduct comes into force, and State governments cannot announce popular schemes that appear to be sops for voters. The Congress argued that any delay in announcing poll dates gives the BJP government in Gujarat more elbow room to announce sops without violating the model code of conduct.

Not apt: Rupani

Reacting to Mr. Chidambaram, Gujarat Chief Minister Vijay Rupani said: “The Congress is scared of the BJP and that is why P. Chidambaram is giving such statements. Political parties commenting on the EC is not apt in our Indian democracy.”

Last week, the Commission announced the dates for Himachal Pradesh, a Congress-ruled State, and told the media that the schedule for Gujarat would be announced later.

Chief Election Commissioner A.K. Joti had said that the voting would certainly take place before December 18 – the counting day for Himachal polls – so that the results of one did not influence the other.

Responding to queries on why the EC did not announce the Gujarat dates, Mr. Joti said several factors were taken into consideration including the relief work in the areas that were hit by the July floods. He had also pointed out that imposition of the model code with immediate effect would hinder all government work.

The delay in announcing the dates for Gujarat by the poll panel has come in for sharp criticism from the Congress, which accused the BJP of pressuring the poll panel.

“The Congress is frustrated by its failure. They are putting a question mark on the Election Commission as they look for excuses that they will make when they are defeated," BJP spokesperson Shahnawaz Hussain said on Friday.

Politics aside, the delay has been questioned by former election commissioners too. “I am quite surprised by the EC’s decision as the Gujarat Assembly also expires around the same time as Himachal Pradesh. Why didn’t they club it?,” former Election Commisioner S.Y. Quraishi had earlier told The Hindu.

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Printable version | Jun 3, 2020 5:49:38 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/chidambaram-slams-ec-for-not-announcing-gujarat-poll-schedule/article19887411.ece

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