Navodita, our Associate Editor, reports on the single-phase Himachal Pradesh Assembly Polls 2017. The fate of 68 MLAs to be decided on Dec 18, later this year. Meanwhile, Gujarat gears up for electioneering. Here’s an exclusive report, in Different Truths.
As Himachal Pradesh Assembly polls ended today, both the parties – BJP and the Congress expressed confidence of getting a huge majority. Each one claimed that the tally of the other would be reduced to a single digit in the 68-member House once the result is declared on December 18.
Voter turnout in the last three times in Himachal has been like this- 75% in 2012, 72% in 2007 and 73% in 2002. There was a record 74% voter turnout in the hill state as snowfall was reported in Kinnaur as soon as voting ended. Reports of fault in VVPAT machines were received in Sirmaur district while polling started late by 15-20 minutes in a few polling booths. Journalist Raghavendra Rao tweeted that 58 EVMs and 102 VVPATs had to be replaced during actual polling in the state. He said that the maximum number of technical snags were reported from Una district, followed by Mandi, Kangra, Solan, and Shimla regions.
In Chamba district, more than 67% polling was recorded while Nalagarh recorded more than 80% polling. The Hikkim polling station in Lahaul-Spiti district, the country’s highest polling booth at 14, 567 feet has 194 voters. The minimum number of voters are at Kaa village in Kinnaur district. It is interesting to note that Tibetan refugees in India cannot apply for government jobs in India and they routinely face difficulties. They don’t get land lease documents and are neither eligible for the government’s developmental schemes. However, the rules do allow Tibetans born in India during 1950-1987 to get voting rights. Around 1000 Tibetan voters have registered in Dharamshala alone. With the highest number of candidates in the fray, Tibetan voters might be the swing vote and can easily play a decisive role in the electoral contest. The main candidates from here are Urban Development Minister Sudhir Sharma of the Congress and former minister Kishan Kapoor of the BJP.
Congress’ candidate Vidya Stokes would have been the oldest candidate in the fray at 89 had the Election Commission not rejected her nomination papers citing discrepancy in the documents. An eight-time legislator and Himachal Pradesh’s Irrigation and Public Health Minister, Stokes represented Theog constituency in the outgoing House. She is the daughter-in-law of American missionary Satyanand Stokes.
Some important candidates contesting the elections are chief minister Virabhadra Singh, 10 ministers, eight chief Parliamentary secretaries, Deputy Speaker Jagat Singh Negi, former chief minister Prem Kumar Dhumal and over a dozen former ministers. From Chamba, its Pawan Naiyar for the BJP, while Neeraj Nayyar from the Congress.
The Election Commission has warned the media that exit poll results cannot be made public before December 14 evening. A poll panel order citing election law said “conducting any exit poll and publishing or publicizing by means of the print or electronic media or dissemination in any other manner, whatsoever the result of any exit poll in connection with the current general elections to the legislative assemblies of Himachal Pradesh and Gujarat shall be prohibited” between 8 am from November 9 to 6 pm of December 14.
As Himachal awaits the election result, Gujarat temperatures are rising with the main factors being the BJP, Narendra Modi, Amit Shah, Vijay Rupani, Anandiben Patel, GST, Hardik Patel and so on- the Congress could at best be its beneficiary, not its creator. Like Patels in the north, businessmen in Ahmedabad express anger with the BJP, but are resigned to the reality that the BJP will win anyway because it always does, because it knows the art and science of elections and the Congress doesn’t; or does it and it only needs to be tapped?
In the meantime, it is reported that the Winter Session of Parliament is likely to be delayed in view of the ongoing Assembly elections in Gujarat and Himachal Pradesh. The session is likely to be put off till campaigning ends for the last phase of the Gujarat Assembly elections next month. Normally, the Winter Session commences in mid-November and ends before Christmas. Going by precedents, the dates for the session should have been out by now as normally the members are intimated around three weeks in advance for them to file notices for questions.
Earlier, IANS had reported that the session could be short this year and the dates would be decided once the Cabinet Committee on Parliamentary Affairs (CCPA) meets. So far, the CCPA has not met and there is no official word on when it will meet. A senior minister in the Union government told Mint that since a large section of parliamentarians would be involved in election campaigning, there is a view that the government should postpone the Winter Session.
As the two states gear up to decide the fate of its voters, the two main political parties- the BJP and the Congress are in a tussle to win the popular vote. While media pundits are calling the Congress incapable of winning it, the real war is between their chief ministerial candidates and the ‘popular image’ each one evokes among the public. The contest in both the states then becomes not for the party agendas but in reality ‘leadership’ being offered by both the parties in their respective states. This then makes it a crucial election ahead of the Lok Sabha one in 2019.
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people in Kanpur.
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