Gujarat to vote on 9 and 14 December in 2-phase assembly polls

Chief Election Commissioner A K Joti on Wednesday announced the schedule for elections to the Gujarat assembly, which will be held on 9 and 14 December, thereby bringing into effect the Model Code of Conduct immediately in Gujarat.

Announcing the assembly elections in Gujarat, the EC on India said the state will vote for the 182 seats in two phases - on 9 December and 14 December 14. Votes will be counted on 18 December along with those for Himachal Pradesh.

The first phase of voting in Gujarat will cover 89 seats with 21 million voters in 19 of the 33 districts of the state, including Kutch, Rajkot, Jamnagar and Surat among others.

Phase two will cover the remaining 93 seats having 22.1 million voters in 14 districts, including Ahmedabad, Gandhinagar, Vadodara. The poll process will start 9 November with the issue of the gazette notification for the first phase.

The term of the legislative assembly of Gujarat is due to expire on 22 January 2018. The Election Commission is required to hold election to constitute the new legislative assembly in Gujarat before expiry of its present term.

In the 182-member assembly, 13 seats are reserved for Scheduled Castes and 27 seats are reserved for Scheduled Tribes, as determined by the Delimitation of Parliamentary and Assembly Constituencies Order, 2008.

The commission rejected allegations that it deliberately delayed the announcement of Gujarat assembly elections to give undue advantage to the ruling party.

However, hours before the EC announcement, the Mayor of Vadodara laid the foundation stones for three government works in the city while in Rajkot its Mayor laid the foundation for a Rs95-crore housing scheme for municipal employees and for two water distribution projects.

The BJP government in Gujarat has announced several measures to woo the electorate. It has reached out to government employees, farmers, Patidars, women, Dalits, traders, youth, promising jobs, health facilities, water, housing.

The EC's decision delay announcement of Gujarat assembly elections and thereby delay the coming into force of the model code of conduct had invited widespread criticism from opposition parties and even former CECs.

Joti said that while the two states saw simultaneous polls during the last two assembly elections, elections in Gujarat were held on 12 December 2002 while in Himachal Pradesh, it was on 26 February 2003.

Also, he said, his decision was partly also based on the ''unprecedented floods'' in Gujarat and to ensure relief and rehabilitation work doesn't slow down because of the announcement of poll dates.