New Delhi, Oct 22: Factors like geography and weather conditions that are in contrast with Himachal Pradesh were considered for delinking elections of Gujarat Assembly from Himachal Pradesh election, clarified the Chief Election Commissioner (CEC) A K Joti.
According to a report published in The Hindu newspaper, the response from the CEC came against the background of mounting criticism of the EC by opposition parties, especially the Congress party for not announcing the election program for Gujarat Assembly.
The CEC said that several factors including the flood situation and relief operations in Gujarat influenced the decision of the poll panel.
Senior Congress leader and former union minister P Chidambaram had accused the Election Commission of deliberately delaying the announcement of poll dates for Gujarat.
The CEC said that announcement of poll dates would have hampered the ongoing relief operations in Gujarat’s flood affected regions as the staff would have to be diverted towards the election duty.
The floods in July – August have caused damage to houses and roads throwing the communication network astray, and therefore needed priority attention for repairs to facilitate smooth elections, he said.
“It is not that only houses have collapsed, roads are a major casualty. They include Gram Panchayat, Taluka Panchayat and district category roads….then, there is the Narmada main canal that also reaches Rajasthan, besides covering the Gujarat districts. In the northern Gujarat region, the canal has 17 bridges, as a result of which the water had to be stopped,” said the Chief Election Commissioner.
As far as Himachal Pradesh was concerned, the political parties and state administration had urged the EC to conduct voting before November 15 to avoid inconveniences due to heavy snowfall in high altitude regions of Lahaul-Spiti and Kinnaur district and also Bharmour constituency in Chamba district.
“So, it was necessary to delink the elections in two States. Both geographically and weather-wise, there is no commonality between them. One is a hill State and the other is in the plains,” the Election Commission said.
The EC has announced that the Gujarat election will be held before December 18, the day on which Himachal Pradesh poll results are to be declared. It would ensure that the results did not impact the voting pattern in Gujarat, said the CEC.
The CEC said another reason for de-linking the elections was that the total time period from the announcement of the schedule to the completion of poll process should be around 46 days, as per the Supreme Court ruling and the Representation of the People Act.
The Commission, he said, also took into account the availability of Central police forces and major festivals to ensure they did not clash with the elections.