BJP put pressure on EC to delay announcement of Gujarat poll dates: Congress

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The Election Commision on Thursday announced that the assembly elections in Himachal Pradesh will be held on 9 Nov and the results will be announced on 18 Dec.

This announcement made by the Election Commissioner AK Jyotihas brought in a lot of criticism, accusing that the EC’s decision is influenced by BJP. The EC had earlier on Tuesday said that it will be announcing the dates for assembly polls in both Congress-led Himachal Pradesh and BJP-led Gujarat, however, only dates for Himachal were announced.

The EC though did not announce the dates for Gujarat assembly polls but it said that the elections will be held before 18 Dec, so as to the results of Himachal polls do not affect the Gujarat polls. The EC trying to portray itself clean said that “Gujarat poll schedules are not announced right now due to the existing rules on time limit [46 days] for holding elections. But it will take place before December 18, to ensure that Himachal Pradesh election results do not impact the Gujarat elections.”

The Commission’s announcement of poll dates is significant because as soon as the dates for the polls are announced, the Model Code of Conduct comes into effect. The Code of Conduct specifies a set of rules for how parties and governments can behave in the run-up to an election. The government can no longer announce any developments schemes and programmes for the people.

Soon after the announcement the Congress had criticised the decision f the EC, to which the EC had responded that it is not the first time that the dates are being announced separately, earlier also during the polls in  2007 and 2012, the Assembly elections in Gujarat and Himachal Pradesh were announced separately.

However, as per the latest updates, the Congress on Friday said that as per the Election Commission’s convention. Elections for these two states, and indeed any states that are going to the polls within a few months of each other, are usually announced at the same time. In 2012 the Election Commission announced dates for both the states on October 4.

The declaration of the election dates for Himachal means the code of conduct has been implemented in the state, however, the parties in Gujarat still have the advantage as it is only said that the elections will be held before 18 Dec, but the dates are not set. This means that the parties and especially BJP is still free to announce developments schemes for the state.

The Congress attacked the EC saying that BJP had put pressure on the EC to delay the announcement for the dates of Gujarat polls so that PM Modi could make some important announcements for the people of Gujarat.

The party also argued that the reason cited by the EC to delay the Gujarat polls date announcement was that elections are expected to be conducted within 45 days of their announcement, however, this has not been the case always. Congress supporting its argument said that in 2012 the Gujarat polls were announced on  Oct 4 but only took place between December 13 and December 17, more than 60 days later.

A former Chief Election Commissioner, in his statement to the press, said that “by deferring the announcement of the Gujarat elections, they have killed the prestige of the Election Commission.”

As it so happens to be Congress has also alleged that the EC has deliberately postponed the announcement as Prime Minister Narendra Modi is to visit the state once again on 16 Oct. It is being speculated that he can promise even more sops to Gujarat’s voters at this rally and Modi may make some grand announcement on Monday.

Recently, the confident BJP seems to be on shaky grounds in Gujarat as the party is fearing the rising anti-incumbency feeling in the state. The ruling party is also facing anger from the Patidars, the OBC’s and the minorities in the state. The rigorous campaign of the Congress and the frequent visits of Congress Vice-President Rahul Gandhi receiving massive attendance, has only added to their concerns.

Despite this, the nervous BJP, who has been ruling the state for 22 years is doing everything possible to save the throne. To win the polls and continue its reign BJP in the past few weeks has announced quite a few number of measures that it hopes will improve the BJP’s fortunes. The changes in the rules of GST announced after the GST Council meeting is being regarded as a tactic move by the BJP to woo in the businessmen in Gujarat.

Congress has been targetting BJP in the poll bound states on the issues of demonetisation, slowing economy, GST and unemployment.

Gujarat Chief Minister Vijay Rupani also on Wednesday announced that around 16 new projects will be set up in Gujarat with an aim of creating at least one lakh jobs. The Gujarat government had listed the names of the places where the industries will be set up according to the Assembly constituencies rather than their districts and this furthermore indicates the main purpose of this announcement being the elections.

According to the experts in over 22 years the BJP will be facing a tough fight this time and the results of the assembly elections here are also largely going to affect the Lok Sabha elections due in 2019. Swarajya’s R Jagannathan said that “The BJP has a fight on its hands and if it hopes to keep its winning narrative alive until 2019, it has to win Gujarat with a clear majority. Right now, it can’t be certain of that.”