EC announces schedule for Assembly polls: between Nov 7-30
New Delhi: Chhattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, Telangana and Mizoram will go to the assembly polls between November 7 and 30, and the counting of votes will be on December 3, the Election Commission said on Monday, setting the stage for what is being seen as the semi-final between the BJP and opposition parties ahead of the 2024 Lok Sabha elections.
Announcing the election schedule at a press conference here, Chief Election Commissioner (CEC) Rajiv Kumar said single-phase assembly polls will be held in Madhya Pradesh on November 17, Rajasthan on November 23, Telangana on November 30 and Mizoram on November 7 while Chhattisgarh will go to the polls in two phases on November 7 (20 seats) and 17 (70 seats).
The high-stakes polls will be a litmus test for the Congress, the biggest party in the fledgling INDIA bloc which is in power in two of the four big states, while a lot is riding for the BJP as well, as the results are bound to have a major bearing on the discourse in the run-up to the Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s reelection bid next year.
The BJP and the Congress will be engaged in a direct fight in Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh and Rajasthan while the two parties are also in contention for power in Telangana, where Chief Minister K Chandrashekar Rao-led Bharat Rashtra Samithi is eyeing a third straight term.
In Mizoram, regional parties and the Congress will challenge the incumbent Mizo National Front amid the opposition party’s hope that political polarisation on ethnic lines following violence in Manipur may boost its chances.
However, it is the assembly polls in three Hindi-speaking states, a BJP stronghold in two consecutive Lok Sabha polls, besides Telangana, which are likely to have an outsize influence on national politics.
Despite losing to the Congress in the assembly contests, the BJP had swept the 2019 national elections in the three central and western states, which together account for 65 Lok Sabha constituencies, but knows that no two polls are alike and has been making big moves to regain power there.
In an unusual move, the BJP has already named 79 candidates, including three Union ministers and four other Lok Sabha MPs, for elections to the 230-member Madhya Pradesh assembly, and 21 candidates for the 90-member Chhattisgarh polls, underlining its determined intent to get the better of the Congress which is fancying its chances after handing its rival a big defeat in Karnataka.
The BJP is also hoping to emerge as a big force in Telangana where, observers believe, the Congress has seen a rebound in its fortunes since the Karnataka polls in May.
Nearly 16 crore voters would be eligible to cast their votes in these elections, CEC Rajiv Kumar said while asserting that strong measures are being put in place to make these polls inducement-free.
Kumar said these five states will have 1.77 lakh polling stations, of which 1.01 lakh will have webcasting facilities.
Welcoming the announcement of assembly polls by the EC, BJP president J P Nadda claimed that his party will form government in all the states with a big majority under Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s leadership.
“The BJP will form government in all states with a big majority under respected Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s leadership and will work with commitment to fulfil people’s aspirations in the next five years,” he said on X.
Reacting to the announcement of the polls, Congress president Mallikarjun Kharge said the party will go to the people with strength and outlined public welfare, social justice and progressive development as its guarantees.
Addressing party leaders at a crucial meeting of the Congress Working Committee (CWC), Kharge called for unity and discipline ahead of polls.
“As we approach the upcoming assembly elections and general elections, it is important that the party works with meticulous coordination and complete discipline and unity,” he said at the meeting.
Kharge also underlined the need for an effective strategy for assembly polls in the five states. He said there is renewed enthusiasm among cadre after decisive victories in Himachal Pradesh and Karnataka while stressing the need to put in “all our might” to win in the five states.
During the election commission briefing, Kumar said more than 8,000 polling stations will be managed by women.
“We have gathered here after a gap of six months. These elections are significant for the country and after this, we will meet for the announcement of the Lok Sabha elections,” Kumar said.
“We have met all stakeholders, including political parties and enforcement agencies, while preparing for the assembly elections in Mizoram, Chhattisgarh, Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Telangana,” he said.
The CEC said the Election Commission (EC) has given a special emphasis on making electoral rolls inclusive and the focus will also be on “roll-to-poll”, or ensuring that all voters come to vote.
Chhattisgarh, Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Telangana and Mizoram will have 8.2 crore male and 7.8 crore female voters, while there will be 60.2 lakh first-time voters, he said.
For the first time a new Election Seizure Management System is being introduced for the assembly polls to enhance oversight to ensure inducement-free elections, Kumar said.
A total of 940 checkposts have been put in place for a strict vigil along interstate borders and to dry up the inflow of illicit liquor, cash, freebies and drugs, he said.
There will be zero tolerance for the use of money power and there will be a strict vigil over suspicious online cash transfers through wallets as well, the CEC said.