Himachal Pradesh Assembly polls on November 12, Gujarat on hold for now

Chief Election Commissioner Rajiv Kumar defends decision, says there is ‘gap of 40 days’ between the end of tenure of the two Assemblies; Congress questions move, says PM will get ‘more time to make mega promises’

Updated - October 19, 2022 04:09 pm IST

Published - October 14, 2022 03:02 pm IST

Election Commission of India announced the poll schedule for 2022 Himachal Pradesh elections in a press conference on October 14, 2022. Photo: Special Arrangement

Election Commission of India announced the poll schedule for 2022 Himachal Pradesh elections in a press conference on October 14, 2022. Photo: Special Arrangement

The Election Commission (EC) on Friday announced that the Himachal Pradesh Assembly election would be held on November 12 and votes would be counted on December 8, while the schedule for the other poll-bound State, Gujarat, was not announced for now.

Last time around as well, the EC had announced the schedules of the two States separately, Himachal Pradesh on October 12, 2017 and Gujarat on October 25, 2017. However, counting of votes in both States was on the same day in December.

While Chief Election Commissioner Rajiv Kumar defended the EC’s decision to announce only the Himachal Pradesh schedule, the Congress questioned the move. Reacting to the announcement, Congress general-secretary in charge of communications Jairam Ramesh said: “Obviously this has been done to give more time to the PM to make some mega promises and carry out more inaugurations. Not at all surprising.”

Asked about the decision not to announce Gujarat elections on Friday, given that the EC visited the State within the same week as it did Himachal in preparation of the elections, Mr. Kumar said the EC had “gone by convention” followed last time. He added that the weather in the hill State was also a factor in deciding the election date due to the snowfall in winter. He said there there was a “gap of 40 days” between the end of the tenure of the two Assemblies – January 8, 2023 for Himachal Pradesh and February 18, 2023 for Gujarat. That being said, in the last set of Assembly elections announced together this year, the gap between the end of terms had been around 60 days – March 15 for Goa and May 14 for Uttar Pradesh.  

“The MCC [Model Code of Conduct] period, which gets extended, has been reduced from 70 days to 57 days and also, if you see against the 2012 election announcement, when it was combined, there is a reduction of 81 days to 57 days. We do not want that the entire election exercise continues for a very long period and that it does not disturb anybody,” Mr. Kumar said.

The nomination process for the 68-seat Himachal Pradesh Assembly election would begin with the gazette notification on October 17 and the last date for nominations would be October 25, as per the EC schedule. A total of 55.07 lakh electors, including 1.86 lakh first-time voters and 1.22 lakh electors over the age of 80, would be eligible to cast their votes.

Mr. Kumar said the EC had ordered teams to be set up at the district magistrate-level to keep an eye on rumours and fake news spread on social media and take action against the same. As an example, Mr. Kumar said, a fake image claiming to be a newspaper report of a former CEC raising concerns over the Electronic Voting Machines has been shared on social media in recent elections. This report, he said, has never been printed, but pops up on social media during elections.

The EC also issued revised COVID-19 guidelines for States that said political parties and candidates must adhere to the rules prescribed by the competent authority and “ensure COVID-appropriate behaviour”.

Also Read | Himachal Pradesh Assembly polls | BJP strives to repeat victory

Here are the latest updates:

3.30 p.m.

Himachal Pradesh to go to polls on November 12, 2022; counting of votes on December 8

Himachal Pradesh poll schedule:

Issue of notification: October 18, 2022

Last Date of making nominations: October 25, 2022

Scrutiny of nominations: October 27, 2022

Last date for withdrawal of candidatures: October 29, 2022

Date of poll: November 12, 2022

Counting of votes: December 8, 2022

3.30 p.m.

1,184 centenarian voters in Himachal Pradesh: CEC

There are over 55 lakh voters in Himachal pradesh out of whom 1,184 are centenarians, says Chief Election Commissioner Rajiv Kumar. “We reached out to each one of them, some of them have not missed a single election in these 75 years,” Mr. Kumar says. Some even said they won’t avail postal ballot but will vote in the booth, he added.

3.25 p.m.

‘Know Your Candidate’ app for voters to help them make informed choices: CEC

‘Know Your Candidate’ app will help the voters to know the candidates’ assets, liabilities, criminal records and all other information about her/him so that voters can make an informed choice, says CEC Rajiv Kumar. Mr. Kumar also requests the voters to not help spread fake narratives or rumours.

3.20 p.m.

Postal ballots available for people aged above 80, disabled, and COVID patients: CEC

The CEC informs that postal ballots for people for over 80 years, persons with disabilities and COVID patients will be available, informs Chief Election Commissioner Rajiv Kumar. The entire process will be videographed, the CEC says.

3.15 p.m.

Upgrades to polling stations

Each polliting station to have ramps, volunteers, drinking water, waiting shed, toilet with water facility and adequate lighting arrangements, Chief Election Commissioner Rajiv Kumar says, adding all polling stations will be on the ground floor.

There will be women-only polling stations, where even security staff will be women, he says. The ECI is planning to have at least one such polling station in each Assembly constituency. This time, the ECI also plans to add person with disabilities as polling staff, he adds.

3.13 p.m.

Though COVID is not a severe threat as it was in the past two years, we continue to be cautious: CEC Rajiv Kumar

The Election Commission officials visited the poll-bound States to ensure the preparations are going on keeping the pandemic in mind, Chief Election Commissioner Rajiv Kumar says.

“We’re identifying the polling station where voting percentage is the lowest and we’re trying to reach out to the voters to pursuade them to come out and vote,” he adds.

3.09 p.m.

The Chief Election Commissioner lists out “three broad objectives” of the ECI:

1. The ECI strives to conduct free, fair, inclusive, accessible inducement free elections.

2. Voters have a hassle free, comfortable voting experience

3. Ensuring maximum voter participation especially youngsters, disabled, women and elderly voters.

3.05 p.m.

We’re adding festival of democracy in the festive month of October: CEC

“We’re adding another festivity in the month of October: the festival of democracy,” says Chief Election Commissioner Rajiv Kumar says. “In this festivity, people aged from 18 to over 100 will take part,” he adds.

2.55 p.m.

Term of the Gujarat Assembly to end on February 18, 2023; H.P. set to go to polls in November, 2022

The term of the Gujarat Assembly ends on February 18 next year while that of Himachal Pradesh on January 8, 2023. The Commission had recently visited the two states to take stock of poll preparedness. While Himachal Pradesh is set to go to polls in November, the State of Gujarat is expected to cast its vote in December.

Poll preparations are in full swing in both the States. On October 12 the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party launched the first round of “Gaurav Yatra” from the temple town of Bahucharaji in Mehsana. Delhi-headquarterd AAP, which rules Punjab and the National Capital Territory of Delhi, has positioned itself as the main challenger to the BJP, which is in power in Gujarat for nearly three decades now. It has so far announced 41 candidates.

Meanwhile, Congress leader Priyanka Gandhi Vadra will launch the party's election campaign in Himachal Pradesh on October 14 with a rally in Solan district of the State. This comes a day after Prime Minister Narendra Modi visited the hill State and launched the country’s fourth Vande Bharat Express train.

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