New Delhi: The last round of assembly elections — to be held in five states and seen as the bellwether for next year’s Lok Sabha elections — will begin on November 12 and continue till December 7. The list includes BJP-ruled heartland states of Chhattisgarh, Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh, Congress-ruled Mizoram and southern state Telangana. The results will be announced on December 11, the Election Commission said today.
Of these, only Chhattisgarh, which has 90 seats, will have a two-phase election. Polling on 18 seats of the state’s Maoist-hit southern areas will be held on November 12. The remaining 72 seats will go to polls on November 20, said Chief Election Commissioner OP Rawat. The rest will have single phase elections — Madhya Pradesh and Mizoram on November 28 and Rajasthan and Telangana on December 7.
This round of elections is expected to set the pace for next year’s general elections, when Prime Minister Narendra Modi will seek another term in power. In Rajasthan, the BJP is trying to buck the trend of a yo-yoing electorate that hasn’t given two consecutive terms to any party. In Chhattisgarh and Madhya Pradesh, the BJP has ruled for three straight terms and the results there will be considered a ready reckoner for the party’s fortunes in the heartland next year.
With the Commission’s announcement, the model code of conduct — a series of do’s and don’ts for the political parties — has come into effect in four states. The Model Code was already in place in Telangana.
The Congress tweeted a dig both for the Commission and the ruling BJP. “Dear ECI, 1. In Gujarat, BJP IT Cell Head tweeted election dates even before ECI. 2. ECI delinked Gujarat elections from Himachal to enable PM Modi to make a slew of announcements. 3. ECI again deferred PC to enable PM Modi to do the same in Rajasthan Is BJP the ‘Super EC’?” read the tweet from senior party leader Randeep Surjewala.
Earlier today, the party had raised questions on the independence of the Election Commission when it pushed back the timing of the press conference to announce dates. While the election body said the move was made not to inconvenience mediapersons, the Congress alleged the delay might be meant to allow Prime Minister Narendra Modi to make a number of announcements at his rally in Ajmer before the Model Code comes into play.
The Commission has rubbished the accusations. “They are politicians, they have to politicise everything,” the Chief Election Commissioner said.
Regarding Telangana — where Chief Minister R Chandrashekar Rao dissolved the assembly last month to effect early elections — Mr Rawat said the polls have been pushed to the far end, so the Commission could place the voters’ list before the High Court, where the Chief Minister’s decision has been challenged.
“The case in High Court is about the voters’ list and it wants to see the list. So EC extended final publication to 12. That’s why Telangana polls are at the far end,” the Election Commissioner said.
The Election Commission had called off the revision of rolls in Telangana to make way for polls in the state by the year-end. The Commission is sticking to the lists from January 1, 2018 and ask the voters to flag any new names or discrepancies.
Asked why Election officials from Delhi did not even visit Telangana, Mr Rawat said, “We had called the CEO and discussed and we are satisfied to hold polls”.