New Delhi: The Janata Dal (U) of Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar, the new-found ally of the Bharatiya Janata Party, too joined the Opposition on Monday to question the Election Commission for not announcing the Gujarat Assembly dates and sought “credible answers.”
It’s General Secretary and spokesman Pavan Kumar Verma, a former MP and a literary figure, tweeted: “EC must not only be impartial but seen to be so. Why have the dates for Gujarat elections not been announced? We need credible answers.” In another tweet, he expressed concern over growing hunger in the country that is seen as a sort of criticism of the Modi government.
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The opposition parties have also questioned the commission for not announcing the Gujarat dates along with those for Himachal Pradesh, with the Congress even holding a demonstration on Monday before Nirvachan Sadan for trying to help the ruling BJP in the poll-bound state. Verma said since the dates for the Himachal polls had been announced, it was expected that the schedule for the Gujarat polls would also be declared, but that was not done.
“So I have asked the EC that in order to retain its impartiality, which we all respect, it must provide credible reasons for not doing so. That is a question beyond partisan politics. Democracy is about strength of the institutions,” he told reporters. Asked if he was speaking in his personal capacity or as a JD-U spokesperson, the former IFS officer did not give a diplomatic answer, asserting that he had asked the question in his capacity as the party spokesman.
Official sources are hinting that the EC will announ-ce Gujarat poll schedule in the last week of October as PM Narendra Modi wants to dedicate the Ghogha Dahej ferry service connecting Saurashtra and the southern regions of the state on October 23. This project is still not fully complete and it will take a minimum of six months to be fully functional but the state government has insisted on its launch before the Assembly elections.
What makes the whole episode intriguing is the fact that while results of the Gujarat assembly elections are going to be announced on December 18 along with that of Himachal, the exact dates of the election are being kept under wraps. It is a departure from the past practice. In 1998, 2007 and 2012, the Election Commission had announced the dates of elections in two states on the same day and had announced the results on the same day as well.
Not only the opposition parties, but even former Chief Election Commissioner S Y Quraishi has raised “serious questions” on holding back the Gujarat poll announcement. In an article in a daily, he said the decision to defer the announcement has created a “ground of suspicion” in view of Prime Minister Modi’s Gujarat visit this week.
He said this goes against the “spirit of simultaneous polls” since the term of both Gujarat and Himachal assemblies comes to an end in January and the announcement of the poll schedule would have brought in the model code of conduct, barring the government from announcing any new scheme or project. What gives credence to the suspicion in popular mind is the fact that the delay in the announcement helped PM Modi address a big rally at the conclusion of two Gujarat Gaurav Yatras in Gandhinagar.
Modi has made Gujarat assembly elections a prestige issue and has lined up a dozen central ministers to visit the state; he even brought Uttar Pradesh chief minister Yogi Adityanath to the state, though he was a flop. Madhya Pradesh CM Shivraj Singh Chauhan was also in Gujarat on Sunday. Modi has himself visited the state four times in a fortnight.