New Delhi: The announcement date for the election in Himachal Pradesh and holding back that of Gujarat by the Election Commission of India has kicked off a row, with questions being raised about the decision of the EC.
In a departure from normal practice, the EC announced the date for Himachal Pradesh on October 13 but held back Gujarat’s date even though both the state assemblies’ terms expired within two weeks of each other.
Himachal Pradesh will go to the polls on November 9 and counting will be nine days later. The EC only said that the election for Gujarat would be held in December.

Since 1998, the EC has been announcing simultaneous polls for both the states, though the only exception being 2002-03, after the Gujarat riot. But this time, it deviated from normal practice though there was no pressing issue that merited holding back the date for Gujarat polls.

As a matter of practice, the EC announces dates of elections of a state where the incumbent governments complete their terms within six months of each other. The elections are also held simultaneously. Earlier this year, the dates of elections for five states including Uttar Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Punjab, Manipur and Goa were announced simultaneously and all went to polls together.

Not surprisingly, the Congress has alleged that the EC move was to allow more days to the BJP government in the state, and especially to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, to announce sops to influence the electorate.
In a stinging tweet, Congress leader P. Chidambaram said that the EC had “authorised” Prime Minister Modi to declare the date of the election in his last rally at Gujarat. “EC will be recalled from its extended holiday after Gujarat Govt has announced all concessions and freebies,” the former finance and home minister said in another tweet.

Congress spokesperson Randeep Surjewala, on the other hand, alleged that the EC did not announce the Gujarat election date because Modi was visiting the state on October 16 to make populist announcements.
The BJP reacted to Congress charges saying they were “jittery” before the elections. Union minister Ravi Shankar Prasad dismissed the Congress allegations against the EC as “absurd” and without having any basis. Gujarat chief minister Vijay Rupani told a television channel that there was no question of intervening in the EC’s decision.
But Congress is not only the one to question the judgement of the EC. Former Chief Election Commissioner (CEC) S.Y. Quraishi said the EC’s decision had raised serious questions.

The EC, especially CEC Achal Kumar Jyoti, has a major challenge in hand: it has to prove critics wrong about allegations of extending favour to the party in power in the centre as well as Gujarat.
When Modi was the chief minister of Gujarat, Jyoti was his chief secretary from 2009 to 2013. After Modi became the Prime Minister, Jyoti joined the EC as one of the election commissioners in 2015. On July 6, he became CEC.