Polls in 5 states between Nov 12 and Dec 7

Polls in 5 states between Nov 12 and Dec 7

Chief Election Commissioner OP Rawat in Delhi. ANI photo

People of Chhattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, Telangana and Mizoram will cast votes between November 12 and December 7 to elect the new state assemblies in what is perceived as a “semi-final” to the Lok Sabha elections next year.

The votes will be counted for all the five states on December 11 and the results are expected on the same day.

The Election Commission’s (EC) announcement of the schedule, however, came amid a controversy, as its news conference was delayed by two-and-a-half hours. This prompted the Congress to allege that the BJP-led government nudged the EC to postpone the announcement to make sure that the model code of conduct does not come into force before Prime Minister Narendra Modi addresses a rally at Ajmer in Rajasthan.

The EC, however, rejected the allegation, saying it postponed the announcement as it had to review the progress in resolving a technical glitch in publishing the final electoral rolls in Telangana.

“Politicians and political parties have to see politics in everything because of their inherent nature,” Chief Election Commissioner O P Rawat said.

The EC announced that polling in Chhattisgarh would take place in two phases. While 18 of the 90 constituencies — the ones affected by ultra-leftist extremism — in the State would go to polls on November 12, the polling in the remaining 72 constituencies would take place on November 20. Polling for all the 230 seats in Madhya Pradesh Assembly and all the 40 in the Assembly in Mizoram would be held on November 28. All the 200 Assembly constituencies in Rajasthan and 119 in Telangana would go to polls on December 7.

The term of the current state assemblies in Mizoram, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Chhattisgarh will end in December and January. Telangana is going for early polls as the state Assembly was dissolved on September 6 following a recommendation from Chief Minister K Chandrasekhar Rao. The EC initially scheduled the news conference at 12.30 pm. It, however, postponed it to 3 pm.

The Prime Minister addressed a rally at Ajmer in Rajasthan at around 1 pm. He was joined by Chief Minister of the BJP-ruled State, Vasundhara Raje, who announced free electricity for farmers during the rally — shortly before the EC announced the poll schedule and the model code of conduct came into force.

AICC spokesperson Randeep Singh Surjewala, tweeted, insinuating that the EC postponed the announcement to allow Modi to address the rally and Raje to announce the sops for the farmers before the model code of conduct came into effect.

Though the EC expected the electoral rolls in Telangana to be ready by October 8, it had now postponed it to October 12 due to a technical glitch. The High Court of Hyderabad on Friday asked the EC not to notify the electoral rolls without getting its approval.

The CEC said that the EC decided to hold the poll in Telangana along with the four other states in spite of the problems regarding the electoral rolls. He said that the polling in Telangana would be conducted towards the end of the schedule in the five states, so that if the high court found any discrepancy in the electoral rolls, it would get enough time to get it fixed.

Rawat also said that although the EC had planned to declare the schedule of bypolls in Tamil Nadu too, the Chief Secretary of the state called him and requested him not to do so in view of the forecast of inclement weather.

The Congress dismissed the explanation provided by the CEC as “preposterous” and alleged that the Prime Minister put pressure on the poll panel to delay the announcement.

The elections in Chhattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, Telangana and Mizoram will be the last series of the state Assembly polls before the nation goes to Lok Sabha polls in April-May next year.

The BJP is in power in Chhattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan and the Congress is its principal challenger in all the three states. The BJP and the Congress will seek to dislodge Telangana Rashtra Samiti from power in Telangana. The Congress is in power in Mizoram with the Mizo National Front as the main opposition. The BJP is also eying Mizoram, which remains the only state in the north-eastern region without the saffron party or any of its allies not in power.