Two phase election in Gujarat, polling on Dec 13, 17; Himachal Pradesh polls on Nov 4

New Delhi: Dates for the elections to Gujarat and Himachal Pradesh have been announced. Gujarat will have a two-phase poll, voting on December 13 and 17. Himachal will have a single-phased one, starting November 4. The results will be announced on December 20. The 2007 elections in both states were two-phased. Gujarat has 3.78 crore voters and Himachal 45.16 lakh. The annoucement of polling dates will mean that the model code of conduct is also in effect. This means that state governments cannot make policy announcements till a new one is in place.

The Chief Election Commissioner, VS Sampath, while announcing the dates, said that the EC will monitor the expenditure made by political parties and candidates for campaigning. A separate bank account will have to be created by candidates and money will have to be spent from that. Another change is in the affidavit that candidates have to file to declare their assets. This has now been simplified and can be filed as a summary. The EC will also monitor ‘paid news’ – which means money paid to media houses to carry news favourable to candidates.

New guidelines were also issued for state officials. Police officers from the level of sub-inspector who have served more than three years at a post, will now have to be transferred. Any policeman who is facing charges will not be included in election duties.

Politically, both the states are crucial for the two national parties, the Congress and the BJP. They are both BJP-ruled as of now. For the Congress, these elections will also be the first real test of the reforms agenda that the government has restarted.

In Gujarat, where Congress president Sonia Gandhi kicked off her party’s campaign with a rally in Rajkot today, chief minister Narendra Modi is looking at a consecutive third term. After the dates were announced, Mr Modi tweeted, “Elections are the biggest festival of democracy. We will take part with true festive spirit. I welcome announcement of the poll dates.”

The BJP under Mr Modi won in 2002 after the Gujarat riots and stayed in power in 2007 as well. The party has 117 of the 182 seats in the Assembly. The Congress has 59, a number the party is desparate to increase and will be hoping that anti-incumbency and some strategic allies like Keshubhai Patel, who quit the BJP a few weeks ago to form his own party.

In Himachal too, the Congress is looking to make a comeback after it lost the state in 2007. The BJP has a strong 41 seat presence in the 68-member Assembly. But it is facing internal issues over seat distribution and cadidates this time. The Congress has just 19 and its fight to win is too handicapped with in-fighting and a lack of a clear CM candidate due to this.

Himachal Pradesh Chief Minister and BJP leader Prem Kumar Dhumal said today that corruption and “anti-Himachal” decisions taken by the Congress-led UPA government would be the main poll planks for the ruling party in the state in the assembly polls. Mr Dhumal gave a list of “anti-Himachal” decisions taken by the Centre, including denial of special financial assistance and a ‘premature’ termination of the industrial package, adding the state has made rapid strides despite the Centre’s ‘non-cooperative’ stance.

A new challenge has also been launched by the Communist Party of India (Marxist), which scored a historic win in the Shimla municipal election. The party is seeing this as a opportunity to spread itself in the state. Interestingly, CPM’s biggest rival, the Trinamool Congress has also said that it will fight in all 68 seats in Himachal Pradesh. It it not yet clear if Arvind Kejriwal’s newly-launched political party will wet its toes or not.

In July, Chief Election Commissioner VS Sampath and Election Commissioner HS Brahma visited Ahmedabad and Shimla to meet all political parties in both the states. The term of Gujarat assembly expires on January 17, 2013 and a new House has to be constituted before then. The term of the Himachal Pradesh assembly expires on January 10 next year.

SUMMARY OF DATES

Gujarat first phase:

Notification: November 17
Last day for nominations: November 24
Scrutiny of nominations: November 26
Last date for withdrawal:  November 28
Polling: December 13
Counting: December 20

Gujarat second phase:

Notification: November 23
Last day for nominations: November 30
Scrutiny of nominations: December 1
Last date for withdrawal:  December 3
Polling: Decmber 17
Counting: December 20

Last day before which process will be completed: December 24

Himachal Pradesh

Notification: October 10
Last day for nominations: October 17
Scrutiny of nominations: October 18
Last date for withdrawal: October 20
Polling: November 4
Counting: December 20

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