Elections announced in five states, parties in poll mode (Second Lead)

October 14th, 2008 - 5:12 pm ICT by IANS  

New Delhi, Oct 14 (IANS) Deferring a decision on polls in Jammu and Kashmir, the Election Commission Tuesday announced dates for elections in Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Delhi, Mizoram and Maoist-affected Chhattisgarh from Nov 14 - a dress rehearsal before the Lok Sabha elections due early next year.According to the election schedule, polls will be held in two phases in Chhattisgarh on Nov 14 and 20; Madhya Pradesh will go to the polls on Nov 25; elections in Delhi and Mizoram will be held on Nov 29, while in Rajasthan the exercise will be held on Dec 4.

Counting in all five states will be held Dec 8.

The poll panel could not decide on dates for polls in Jammu and Kashmir, which has been under governor’s rule since July, despite holding meetings with political parties in the state and the home ministry.

“We are still assessing the situation. Positioning security forces is part of the problem but there are other factors and we will get back as soon as we decide,” said Chief Election Commissioner N. Gopalaswami.

The state has been under governor’s rule since July 11, when the former Congress-led coalition government was toppled and the assembly dissolved after coalition partner Peoples Democratic Party withdrew its support to then chief minister Ghulam Nabi Azad.

Sources in the poll panel said there was a difference of opinion among the two election commissioners, Navin Chawla and S.Y. Qureshi, and Gopalaswami on the poll preparedness of the state.

The announcement of the much-awaited poll dates in the other states sent political parties into battle mode.

“We will go to the people seeking their mandate in five states. It will be an endeavour for us to get rid of anti-people governments in Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh and Rajasthan,” said Congress spokesperson Manish Tiwari.

“And it is also an opportunity for us to ensure the third consecutive victory of the Congress in Delhi,” he added.

While Tiwari refused to comment on the decision not to announce dates for Jammu and Kashmir saying the poll panel was the “best judge”, the main opposition Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) expressed its concern.

“The BJP is of the opinion that political activities should resume there and a popular government be constituted at the earliest. We request the Election Commission to announce dates immediately,” said party spokesperson Rajiv Pratap Rudy.

Rudy was optimistic about his party’s prospects.

“We will prove that incumbency is for us and are confident of winning in Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh. The political situation in Delhi is also in favour of the BJP.”

Elections in the five states will be held in the backdrop of terrorist attacks and sectarian violence in several parts of the country. The elections will also be a test of popularity for Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s government, which is in its final lap before national elections next year.

The BJP rules the central states of Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh and the western state of Rajasthan while the Congress party rules Delhi. Mizoram is ruled by a regional party, the Mizo National Front.

Gopalaswami said the model code of conduct for all political parties and state governments comes into immediate effect and also added that all political meetings will be videographed in this round of assembly polls.

A total of 650 observers will be deployed by the Election Commission in the five states during the period of electioneering and voting.

Factoring the backdrop in which these elections are being held, the CEC said political parties should not appeal to caste or communal feelings for securing votes.

“Mosques, churches, temples or other places of worship shall not be used as forum for election propaganda.”

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