Ahemdabad: Assembly elections in Gujarat will be held in two phases on December 9 for 89 assembly seats and December 14 for 93 seats, the Election Commission said today. Votes for all 182 seats will be counted on December 18, along with those in Himachal Pradesh, where polling will be held on November 9. A model code of conduct, which prohibits announcements that can influence voters, comes into effect immediately.
According to the The Gujarat elections have been announced 13 days after the Election Commission declared poll dates for Himachal Pradesh, prompting opposition party Congress to accuse the Centre of pressuring the election body to allow the BJP more time to announce sops and launch big projects, a charge that both the Election Commission and the ruling party have rejected.
The election to the 182-seat Gujarat assembly is a prestige battle for the BJP. It is the home state of the party’s two biggest leaders, Prime Minister Narendra Modi and party president Amit Shah who has set a target of 150 seats for the BJP, which had won 116 seats in 2012.
To win the Gujarat elections a party needs to get a majority at 92 seats. Main opposition party Congress hopes for an anti-incumbency sentiment against the BJP after two decades in power and its leader Rahul Gandhi has been campaigning aggressively in Gujarat, reaching out to sections like the Patels, Dalits and backward castes, seen to be upset with the ruling party.
The Election Commission had announced poll dates for the 66-seat Himachal Pradesh assembly on October 12. It said the Gujarat dates would be announced later, also adding that the elections would be held no later than December 18.
The Congress protested at the delay in announcing the Gujarat dates, a deviation from the convention of announcing elections for the two states together, alleging that it gave PM Modi enough time to make two visits to launch projects and make an assortment of big bang infrastructure-related announcements, besides allowing Chief Minister Vijay Rupani to reach out to voters with concessions.
Amid indications that the poll dates would be out today, the Gujarat government had announced a series of sops on Tuesday for different sections of the society, including farmers, protesting accredited health workers and backward castes.
In October alone the state government announced development projects worth 18,000 crores, including a 600-crore ferry service connecting Saurashtra and south Gujarat and also interest-free farm loans up to three lakhs, benefiting 25 lakh farmers.
The BJP has said the Congress’ allegation that the Centre pressured the Election Commission is “absolutely absurd” and has criticised the opposition party for questioning a constitutional authority.
Chief Election Commissioner AK Joti said the Gujarat announcement was delayed to allow the state government time to wrap up relief and rehabilitation works to help flood victims. “We realised that nearly 26,000 staff would be deployed for elections and flood relief work would get delayed,” Mr Joti told earlier this week.
The Congress hopes for an anti-incumbency sentiment against the BJP after two decades in power and its leader Rahul Gandhi has been campaigning aggressively in Gujarat, reaching out to sections like the Patels, Dalits and backward castes, seen to be upset with the ruling party, and also farmers and traders who have been affected by recent reforms like the notes ban and new national tax GST.