Waiting for verdict

Over four million voters of Himachal Pradesh went to the polls on Sunday to elect a new Assembly and the Election Commission should be congratulated for conducting a largely peaceful election in this hill state with difficult terrain and spaced out population.

BJP’s incumbent chief minister Prem Kumar Dhumal’s attempt to retain power for the second consecutive term – which no party has managed to do in the last two decades – is being challenged by the Congress’ strongman, Virbhadra Singh, a five-time chief minister, who is now immersed in scandals. Going by conventional wisdom, the result of this keenly fought election should have been available in the next two-three days, but it will not be for another six weeks, that is, December 20, when the counting will be taken up along with Gujarat, which is scheduled to have elections in two phases on December 13 and 17.

It is the result of a strange and somewhat illogical practice that the Election Commission has adopted. This method of clubbing the counting of votes and announcement of results is understandable in the Lok Sabha elections which are spread across the country. The parliamentary election is one long, single process, involving huge logistical challenges and movement of security forces according to the needs of each state.

The terms of current Assemblies of Himachal Pradesh and Gujarat are set to expire in the third week of January, 2013, but since Himachal is going to polls a good six weeks earlier than Gujarat due to impending winter, there is no earthly reason why the result cannot be declared immediately after polling. If the Commission believes that the Himachal result could ‘influence’ the voters of Gujarat, it is completely far-fetched and an insult to the Indian electorate who have repeatedly shown their maturity.

The Election Commission should quickly reconsider its policy on declaration of results because 10 Assembly elections are due to be held in 2013. While the terms of Meghalaya, Tripura and Nagaland Assemblies will end in March, 2013 and that of Karnataka in May, 2013, elections to six other Assemblies, Madhya Pradesh, Mizoram, Delhi, Rajasthan, Chhattisgarh and Jammu and Kashmir will become due in October, 2013.

Perhaps the time has come for political parties to seriously consider the oft-repeated suggestion to somehow find a solution to synchronise the elections to Parliament and the state Assemblies, which would result in considerable saving of costs and simplify the logistics of conducting the polls themselves.

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