Himachal polls on Nov 9; Gujarat before Dec 18

Himachal polls on Nov 9; Gujarat before Dec 18

Himachal Pradesh will go to polls on November 9, the Election Commission (EC) said on Thursday.

The commission deferred an announcement on Gujarat where the term of the Assembly also ends in January.

However, Chief Election Commissioner A K Joti said that elections will be held in Gujarat before the counting of votes is held in Himachal Pradesh (December 18).

This is to ensure that the outcome in the hill state does not have an impact on the elections in Gujarat.

The Congress cried foul at the commission’s decision to announce the schedule only for Himachal and accused the Centre of putting pressure on the EC to “suit its political ends”.

Joti, who was flanked by Election Commissioners O P Rawat and Sunil Arora, said the commission had received a request from the Gujarat government to defer the announcement to allow relief and rehabilitation work in flood-hit districts of the state.

He also contended that simultaneous announcement of elections in both the states would have led to a long spell of Model Code of Conduct in Gujarat, which would be unfair.

Joti said elections need to be held early in Himachal as the districts of Kinnaur, Lahaul and Spiti, and parts of Bharmour are cut off from the rest of the state once winter sets in.

Joti said Voter Verifiable Paper Audit Trail (VVPAT) machines would be used in all the 7,521 polling stations in Himachal.

On a pilot basis, one polling station from each Assembly constituency will be randomly selected to match VVPAT slips with the results obtained from the Electronic Voting Machines (EVMs).

In Himachal, the Congress is bracing for a tough fight with an aggressive BJP.The Congress is mired in a factional fight with Chief Minister Virbhadra Singh demanding the removal of state unit president Sukhwinder Singh Sukhu.

The Congress’s central leadership has brokered an uneasy truce with party vice president Rahul Gandhi declaring Virbhadra as the party’s chief ministerial face but refused to sack Sukhwinder.

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