The Election Commission on Friday cited convention followed in 2017 for not announcing the assembly polls in Himachal Pradesh and Gujarat together and underlined that the model code this time has not been "unnecessarily extended".
Responding to a volley of questions on why the poll panel did not announce the two polls together, Chief Election Commissioner Rajiv Kumar said "the Commission actually goes by the convention in announcing the schedule of elections. It went by the convention last followed."
In 2017, the polls in the two states were announced on different dates but the counting took place together on December 18.
Floods in Gujarat had led the EC to hold polls in the state after Himachal poll schedule was announced.
According to the EC website, assembly polls in Gujarat and HP were held together at least in 1998, 2007 and 2012.
Then chief election commissioner A K Joti while addressing a press conference on HP poll schedule had said in October 2017 that elections to the two states--HP and Gujarat-- were announced separately in the past too including in 1993, 1994 and 2002.
The EC on Friday announced the schedule for Himachal Pradesh assembly polls. The notification will be issued on October 17 and the polls will be held on November 12. The counting of votes will take place on December 8.
Asked whether the counting of votes for Gujarat will be held along with Himachal Pradesh on December 8, Kumar said "when we come for Gujarat (poll announcement), we will tell you this."
Technically, it is still possible to hold Gujarat elections in the November-December period so that the votes could be counted on the same day as was the case in 2017.
Some opposition leaders pointed out that announcing Gujarat elections later could allow the incumbent government to roll out more welfare schemes before the model code kicks in.
Noting that while following convention, EC in fact "refined" it, Kumar said the model code period has been reduced from 70 days to 57 from 2017 elections and from 81 days to 57 from 2012 elections when the two polls were held together.
The wait for results has been reduced by two weeks than the 2017 elections.
"...the preparation and conduct of elections is very detailed exercise and it takes into account various factors, variable factors , consultations with all stakeholders and the factors which are competitive," the CEC said.
He said issues such as the impact of result of one election on another are also considered.
In states like Himachal Pradesh, the weather is a very important factor, especially in the upper reaches, he explained.
"After examining everything, EC decided to go by the convention which was followed last year ... while we followed the convention, we further refined it so that the MCC period is not unnecessarily extended," Kumar said.
The tenures of the Himachal Pradesh and Gujarat assemblies will end on January 8, 2023 and February 18, 2023 respectively.
In 2017, Himachal Pradesh went to polls on November 9, while Gujarat exercised its franchise in two phases -- December 9 and 14.