Single-phase Assembly elections will be held in Maharashtra and Haryana on 21 October and the counting of votes will be taken up on 24 October, Chief Election Commissioner (CEC) Sunil Arora announced on Saturday.
The term of the 288-member Maharashtra Assembly ends on 9 November and that of the 90-member Haryana Assembly on 2 November. The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) is set to take on the Congress-led Opposition to retain power in both the states.
Notifications for the Assembly elections in both states will be issued on 27 September and the nomination process will begin on the same day. The last day for filing nominations is 4 October and the nomination papers will be scrutinised on 5 October.
Arora, accompanied by Election Commissioners Ashok Lavasa and Sushil Chandra, said 7 October is the last date for candidates to withdraw from the electoral battle.
Welcoming the announcement, BJP president Amit Shah urged voters to cast their ballots for a "strong government".
He also urged the BJP workers to highlight the achievements of the ruling governments, which had taken the states to "new heights of development and good governance."
महाराष्ट्र और हरियाणा में गत 5वर्षों में चली भाजपा की राज्य सरकारों ने प्रदेश को विकास और सुशासन की नित नयी ऊंचाइयों पर पहुंचाया है।
इन प्रदेशों के कार्यकर्ताओं से आवाहन करता हूँ कि अपनी सरकारों की उपलब्धियों को जन-जन तक पहुँचाये और पुनः प्रचंड बहुमत के साथ हमारी सरकारें बनाये।
— Amit Shah (@AmitShah) September 21, 2019
The Assembly elections are the first after Prime Minister Narendra Modi led the BJP to power at the Centre for a second term in May. The Assembly elections are also the first since the government announced the abrogation of provisions of Article 370 granting special status to Jammu and Kashmir and bifurctaion of the state into two Union Territories.
BJP leaders in both states said they are confident of retaining power as Opposition parties have been weakened, with many key leaders from their camp joining the saffron party in recent weeks.
Haryana chief minister Manohar Lal Khattar exuded confidence. "The BJP is strong on all the 90 Assembly seats in the state. Opposition political parties are divided and a stampede is taking place in these parties.We will cross the 75 plus seats in the state assembly, I am confident about it," Khattar told the media on Saturday.
In a similar vein, Maharashtra chief minister Devendra Fadnavis said that the BJP will retain power and he will continue to hold the chief minister's post. He also confirmed that the BJP and Shiv Sena will be in alliance for the upcoming elections and added that the seat sharing formula would be revealed soon.
"I am saying with no uncertainty that we will contest the Assembly polls along with Shiv Sena. The seat-sharing talks are still on, do not trust the reports," Fadnavis said while speaking at the "India Today Conclave 2019" being held in Mumbai.
Talks between the two parties have not reached a conclusion, as the BJP wants to fight a larger share of the 288 Assembly seats while the Sena wants it to stick to the earlier agreed formula that both will contest an equal number of constituencies.
Both parties could not agree to a seat-sharing deal even in the 2014 polls, leading to them fighting the elections separately. The BJP won 122 seats and the Sena 63 seats.They joined hands after the polls to form government.
Speaking about the arrangements for the Assembly elections, Arora said the EC will set up 95,473 polling stations for over 8.95 crore voters in Maharashtra. In Haryana, 19,425 polling stations will be set up for nearly 1.83 crore voters. He added that special security arrangements will be made in areas affected by Left-Wing Extremism in Gondia and Gadchiroli districts of Maharashtra.
Asked why elections to the Jharkhand Assembly were not announced on Saturday when the country was discussing simultaneous polls, Arora said that the issue was not yet settled and added that term of the state Assembly there ends on 9 January.
"If the Leader of the House there wants to dissolve the assembly and advance the elections, then it is a separate matter. But why should the commission want to advance it," he said.
While there is a debate on simultaneous polls, "unless there is a very clear consensus amongst the political parties on the issue, this cannot be taken as a given template", the chief election commissioner said
When asked whether the EC will ban the use of Article 370 in election campaigns as it had banned the use of actions taken by defence forces across the border, Arora said, "(Article) 370 is a decision taken by the Parliament of India. The only place where it can be challenged is the honourable Supreme Court of India," he said.
The commission also reiterated that while some EVMs fail to function due to "mechanical, structural or physical defect" including faulty switches, broken button, faulty connection, these never record a "wrong vote". The polling stations where the count is taken up are selected by a draw of lots after the election and before counting.
With inputs from agencies
Updated Date: Sep 21, 2019 18:49:06 IST