New Delhi, Oct. 28: Gujarat will go to polls on December 12, chief election commissioner J.M. Lyngdoh announced today at a news conference hours after the Supreme Court upheld the decision to postpone the franchise in the riot-ravaged state.
Lyngdoh showed no sign of elation at the order, concentrating instead on the technicalities. He said notification for the polls would be issued on November 18 and the last date for filing nomination would be November 25. Scrutiny of papers is to be completed by November 26 while the last date for withdrawal of nomination is November 28.
Electronic voting machines will be used in all the 182 Assembly constituencies. Counting will begin on December 15 and the entire process completed by the 20th. Lyngdoh said the election code of conduct comes into effect from today. This means neither the state nor the Centre can announce measures that could influence voters.
At the conference, Lyngdoh kept his answers short. “We will not do it if we have any doubt at all.... Now the Gujarat government is in a mood to comply,” he said, asked if free and fair elections could be held under the Narendra Modi dispensation.
To queries about whether Muslims would be able to vote, he replied: “We are not psychologists nor are we social workers…keeping in constant touch with the people. We are quite aware about our own limitations. We will give them all conditions to allow them to vote.”
Lyngdoh arrived in Calcutta tonight on a three-day visit to review the electoral set-up in the state. Panchayat elections are expected to be held early next year.
Lyngdoh said the commission’s effort was to ensure that the “little voter”, whatever be his denomination or background, was free to vote.
Lyngdoh said the communal situation in the state was “all right”. “But we are not taking any chances. For that reason, we have sought a large force from the home ministry to keep the mischiefmakers away.”
The commission has sought 40,000 paramilitary personnel from the Centre for the polls. Asked if the panel had suggested imposition of President’s rule after it turned down the Modi government’s plea for early polls, Lyngdoh said: “We never demanded President’s rule. We made no demand for Article 356.”
He said of the four lakh missing from the state following the riots, 1.76 lakh have been relocated.Many of the Muslims have fled in fear to relatives in Maharashtra, UP, Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh. Some 2.24 lakh people are yet to be located, Lyngdoh explained.
“All efforts are being made to locate these shifted voters both within the state as well as in the neighbouring states, where they are likely to have migrated, to provide them with the facility of casting their votes from their present places,” he said.
The election Commission also announced byeelections to Daporiji in Arunachal Pradesh, Khumtai in Assam and Bansur, Sagwara and Bali in Rajasthan.