New Delhi, October 9
The Election Commission on Monday set the ball rolling for a crucial poll cycle announcing single-phase elections for the Assemblies of Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, Mizoram and Telangana and voting in two phases for Left-wing extremism-infested Chhattisgarh.
Mizoram and Chhattisgarh (phase I) will go to the polls on November 7; Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh (phase II) on November 17; Rajasthan on November 23 and Telangana on November 30.
“Counting of votes in all states will be held on December 3 and the process of elections will conclude on December 5,” said Chief Election Commissioner (CEC) Rajiv Kumar, signalling the start of the election season, which will be followed by the 18th General Election next year.
The BJP and the Congress, arch rivals in the Hindi heartland states of MP, Rajasthan and Chhattisgarh, exuded confidence of victory, while Telangana CM K Chandrashekar Rao said the ruling BRS would retain power in the state.
The Congress is in power in Chhattisgarh and Rajasthan, and hopes to retain both states to stay in contention as the principal Opposition force in the newly formed anti-BJP INDIA bloc, where several parties and leaders compete for primacy and attention. The Congress currently holds only four states on its own — Chhattisgarh, Rajasthan, Himachal Pradesh and Karnataka — and needs an electoral booster in the Assembly elections to go into the 2024 Lok Sabha polls with its chin up.
Real-time updates on seizures
Technology-based mechanism will be used for the first time during the Assembly elections to get real-time updates on seizure of cash, drugs and freebies offered to induce the electorate.
— Rajiv Kumar, CEC
The BJP hopes to retain MP, where CM Shivraj Singh Chouhan is facing an 18-year anti-incumbency, and is eyeing gains in Rajasthan and Chhattisgarh on account of Congress’ incumbency. Sources in the saffron party say it will better its 2018 performance in all three Hindi heartland states, which the Congress had won then. The BJP is also upbeat, given past trends where despite losing MP, Rajasthan and Chhattisgarh in 2018, the party went on to better its LS performance in 2019, clocking a vote percentage of 37.5 as against 31% in the 2014 elections. Of the 65 Lok Sabha seats in MP, Rajasthan and Chhattisgarh, the BJP holds 61.These Assembly elections will also test Congress’ and BJP’s mettle as the parties face off in the majority of the 679 segments that go to the polls in five states.
In the 2019 LS polls, the Congress had won only 15 of the 186 seats where it directly rivalled the BJP.
CEC Kumar said 16.1 crore people were eligible to vote in 679 Assembly segments.
There are 60.2 lakh first-time voters. The CEC also announced 100% voter enrolment among 12 particularly vulnerable tribal groups.
The election will be significant as one-sixth of India’s Assembly segments — 679 out of 4,200 — will poll and a sixth of India’s voters will be eligible to exercise their franchise.
The EC said 940 checkpoints had been established for coordinated inter-agency action to prevent flow of money and drugs to curb inducements. Non-scheduled chartered flights would be monitored closely, he said, adding cargo movement through railways would also be checked.
In all, there will be 1.77 lakh polling stations, of which 1.01 lakh are fitted with webcast as per EC’s 50% webcast among all stations mandate.
Candidates with criminal antecedents will have to publish credentials in newspapers thrice and parties will need to explain why those with criminal past have been fielded, the CEC said, adding the idea was to let people make informed choices.
The Congress is likely to make caste census its big election pitch in the state polls, just as it made the old pension scheme the main plank in Karnataka and Himachal, winning both.
While the Congress Working Committee today unanimously endorsed the caste census nationally, the BJP accused the grand old party of dividing people.
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