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Year-end elections in Gujarat

New Delhi, Oct. 10: Assembly polls in Gujarat will be held in two phases on December 11 and 16.

Chief election commissioner N. Gopalaswami said 87 constituencies will go to polls in the first phase and the remaining 95 in the second.

Counting of votes will be taken up on December 23.

The commission also announced two-phase elections in Himachal Pradesh, where three constituencies — Kinnaur, Bharmour, and Lahul and Spiti — will go to polls early, on November 14, because of climatic conditions.

Elections to the remaining 65 seats will be held on December 19, nine days before the counting begins.

The terms of Gujarat and Himachal Assemblies are due to expire on December 26 and March 9, respectively.

Asked why the Gujarat elections, the second since the 2002 riots, were being held in two phases unlike that in Bihar, Bengal and Uttar Pradesh where polls were more staggered, the commissioner said the requirement and approach to deploying paramilitary forces was “different”.

Minority voters can exercise their franchise without fear, Gopalaswami said. He said the commission has “ensured that all of them” — those still living in relief camps — get “election registration cards”.

“Their cards will tell them where they will vote,” he said, asked where these voters can cast their ballot as many fear to go back to their home constituencies.

The election commissioner said police and other officials accused of not being “fair” in the last elections “will not be allowed to function”.

“Instructions have already been issued that no election-related official would be allowed to continue in his or her home district. Those officials, who completed three years in a district during the last four years, should also be transferred,” he said.

About 68,000 central paramilitary forces and state armed police drawn from other states will be deployed in the two poll-bound states, Gopalaswami said.

Gopalaswami said the conduct of all government officials entrusted with election-related responsibilities would remain under constant scrutiny of the commission and action would be taken against those found wanting.

“The commission will be monitoring the ground situation closely and will take appropriate measures to ensure peaceful, free and fair polls in these states,” he said.

Gopalaswami said the commission had issued detailed guidelines on video coverage of all critical events during the election process and polling at all vulnerable booths. “Digital cameras will also be deployed inside the booths wherever needed,” he added.

He said 81.34 per cent of Gujarat’s voters and 73.11 per cent in Himachal have so far been brought under EPIC (Electors Photo Identity Cards) coverage.

“The Commission has issued instructions to both the states to continue the campaign for increasing the EPIC coverage,” Gopalaswami said.

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