M A I N   N E W S

EC declares poll dates for 5 states
Ashok Tuteja/TNS

New Delhi, October 4
The Election Commission today announced the schedule for Assembly elections in Chhattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, Delhi and Mizoram, the outcome of which will be anxiously awaited by both the Congress and the BJP to draw up their strategy for the 2014 Lok Sabha elections.

Voting will be held in two phases on November 11 and November 19 in Chhattisgarh while it will be a one-day affair in Madhya Pradesh on November 25, in Rajasthan on December 1 and in Delhi and Mizoram on December 4.

Counting of votes in all five states will take place on December 8, Chief Election Commissioner VS Sampath announced at a press conference here. He said the model code of conduct had come into force with immediate effect in the 5 states.

Sampath said the Election Commission has decided to implement the ‘None of the Above’ (NOTA) option on ballot papers and Electronic Voting Machine (EVMs) as per the directive of the Supreme Court on September 27.

On the balloting unit below the name of the last candidate, there would now be a button for the NOTA option so that electors, who did not want to vote for any of the candidates, could exercise their option.

Nearly 11 crore voters are expected to exercise their right to franchise in the 5 states, in what is being seen as the dress rehearsal for next year’s Lok Sabha polls.

Of the five states going to the polls, Rajasthan, Delhi and Mizoram are ruled by the Congress, while the BJP is in power in Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh.

It will virtually be a straight contest between the ruling BJP and the Congress in Madhya Pradesh where incumbent Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan is making a determined bid to register a hat-trick. The appointment of Jyotiraditya Scindia as its campaign committee chief by the Congress has galvanised party cadres to some extent but the going will still be tough for the party, given the personal popularity of the BJP Chief Minister.

In Rajasthan, the Congress is counting on various welfare schemes launched by the Ashok Gehlot government while the BJP is banking on the anti-incumbency factor. All indications are that it will be a neck-and-neck race between the two rivals. In Chhattisgarh, BJP Chief Minister Raman Singh is hoping to repeat the handsome performance of his party in the 2008 polls, cashing in on the state’s efficient Public Distribution System (PDS). The Congress, which lost many of its top leaders in the state in a Maoist attack in May, is seeking to wrest power on a sympathy wave and the discontent against the government among tribals. The Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) of Arvind Kejriwal will make its debut in Delhi, adding a new dimension to the electoral battle in the national capital where it had always been a straight contest between the Congress and the BJP in the past.

After ruling the state for three consecutive terms, Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit is in the fray for a record fourth time while the faction-ridden BJP is seeking to capitalise on the moderate performance of the state government. Corruption and rising prices are likely to be the main issues during the election campaign.

In Mizoram, the ruling Congress is banking on the new land use policy which focuses on inclusive growth to retain power. The Mizo National Front (MNF) and the Mizoram People’s Conference (MPC) are the other parties in the fray.





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