Assembly elections in Gujarat will be held in two phases: On 9 and 14 December, the Election Commission announced on Wednesday, setting the stage for a high-stakes battle between the ruling BJP and the Congress. Counting will take place on 18 December, Chief Election Commissioner AK Joti said at a press conference. The Model Code of Conduct comes into immediate effect, he said.
Further, it also announced a ceiling expenditure of Rs 28 lakh per candidate. A little over 50,000 polling booths equipped with VVPAT machines will be set up for the election.
Announcing dates for the first phase, Joti said, "Date of issuance for gazette notification for the first phase is 14 November; last day to file nominations is 21 November; date of scrutiny of nominations is 22 November and last date for withdrawal of candidature is 24 November. Date of polling is 9 December."
For the second phase, he added, "Date of issue of gazette notification is 20 November; last day of nominations is 27 November; date of scrutiny of nominations is 28 November and last date for withdrawal of candidature is 30 November. Date of polling for the second phase is 14 December."
The Commission had already announced that results for Gujarat and Himachal Pradesh Assembly elections will be announced together on 18 December.
The first phase of Gujarat elections will cover 89 constituencies in 19 districts, while the second phase will cover 93 constituencies in 14 districts. There will be 2.11 crore voters in phase one and 2.21 crore in phase two.
While addressing the press, Joti said a public grievance redressal system will be set up to provide a common platform for all concerns and suggestions from members of the public. "The IT platform will allow citizens to upload pictures and videos as well," Joti said, adding that unprecedented rains were the reason why there was a delay in announcing election dates.
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"CCTV cameras will be used at border checkposts to prevent smuggling of liquor and money and to stop anti-social elements from entering the state," Joti said.
Paper trail of votes will be used in all 50,128 polling stations in the state to ensure transparency, Joti said. Voters will be able to see their votes cast through Voter-Verified Paper Trail Audit (VVPAT) machines. The Commission has also set up 182 all-women polling stations, one in each Assembly constituency.
South Gujarat and Saurashtra will go for voting in the first phase. North and central Gujarat will follow in the second phase.
Joti said that candidates will have to open new bank accounts for election expenditure. CCTV cameras will be set up at sensitive areas along the border to elections are carried out smoothly, he said.
The chief election commissioner also said that the required number of VVPATs (and EVMs if needed) will be made available in the state. "We have good experience in deployment of VVPATs at polling stations," Joti said.
Wednesday's announcement came after the poll panel faced criticism over the delay in announcing the election schedule in the BJP-ruled state. It was expected that the EC would announce both poll schedules together, but a delay in announcement of Gujarat's polling dates led to a barrage of criticism from Opposition parties, who alleged that the delay had given state and central governments more time to announce sops.
With inputs from agencies
Updated Date: Nov 24, 2017 16:38 PM