Saturday, October 14, 2017

Under Modi pressure? Poll panel may wait for "auspicious" Labh Pancham, Oct 25, to announce Gujarat polls

Chief election commissioner AK Joti 
By Our Representative
Senior Gujarat government officials are learnt to have been told by their counterparts in Delhi that, “in all likelihood”, the Election Commission of India (ECI) would announce state assembly polls on or after the auspicious Labh Pacham, October 25, which is the fifth day of the new Gujarati New Year.
The Gujarati New Year is on October 20, a day after Diwali. On Labh Pancham, Gujarati Hindu middle class entrepreneurs reopen shops, closed on the Diwali day after, praying for Goddess Laxmi, or Goddess of Wealth. While many middle class families go holidaying for about a week, the more traditional ones keep all lights on at night and doors and windows open for considerable time to “allow” the Goddess to enter in their house.
Talking with Counterview on condition of anonymity, a senior official, who claims to be in direct touch with ECI, has said it is “quite possible” for the poll dates to be announced after the “auspicious date.” Announcement of polls bring in force the model code of conduct, forcing the ruling party not to declare new sops to the people.
However, a Counteview message to Chief Election Commissioner AK Joti, asking him specific question whether this was true, went without a reply, though his juniors said, requesting not to be named, that there would be “no announcement” at least before October 18.
Two days ago, while the ECI announced November 8 as the date for Himachal Pradesh assembly polls, it did not announce any date for Gujarat, leading to many eyebrows being raised across India. One who has had excellent rapport with Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Joti was Gujarat cadre IAS bureaucrat and retired as state chief secretary in January 2013, when Modi was Gujarat chief minister.
Not only the Congress, the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) and the Left, but even former chief election commissioner SY Quraishi said the decision not to announce Gujarat polls along with that of Himachal Pradesh has “:justifiably raised the hackles of the people”, as the terms of the two state Assemblies almost coincide.
“If the government does announce new populist schemes and freebies, it would cause the EC a huge embarrassment. It would be accused of giving the government of Gujarat the few extra days before invoking the model code of conduct”, Quraishi insists in his opinion piece.
While Gujarat Assembly’s term ends on January 22, 2018, and of Himachal Pradesh it ends on January 7. ECI, meanwhile, also announced that the counting date for both Gujarat and Himachal Pradesh polls would be on December 18.
Justifying his decision not to announce Gujarat polls, Joti reportedly said that the election timetable should ideally not exceed 46 days, adding, any announcement for more than that would “obstructed governance.”
A major reason given by the ECI for not announcing Gujarat polls, said Joti, is the Gujarat government “seeking” more time before the election announcement, as the model code of conduct would “disrupt” flood relief in Gujarat.
Meanwhile, what Quraishi said is already proving to correct. The Gujarat government is already starting to open purse-strings, says a report. The BJP-ruled Vadodara Municipal Corporation has finalized a mega event for Sunday, where Chief Minister Vijay Rupani is expected to inaugurate development works worth Rs 780 crore.
Earlier on Friday, the Ahmedabad Municipal Corporation concluded its ninth “Shahri Garib Kalyan Mela” in Ahmedabad, where of a total 4103 beneficiaries, 3,262 were distributed kits including cheques, funds and bonds under the “Manav Garima Yojana”.
The kits included sewing machines, utensils, tri-cycles, dairy products, street-vending carts and other household items. 1,087 people were given kits, as also cheques ranging from Rs 2,000 as Vidyalakshmi bonds to Rs 50,000, for intercaste marriage were distributed.
Uttar Pradesh chief minister Yogi Adityanath and Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh are in South Gujarat to address a public meetings as part of the Gaurav Yatra, which would be concluded on Sunday by Prime Minister Narendra Modi off Gandhinagar.
Knowledgeable circles say, senior state officials, including those from the police, have been given the target of bringing “at least 10 lakh people” as a show of strength for Modi’s rally.

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