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5 states to go to polls from Nov 14, J&K not yet

Onkar Singh in New Delhi | October 14, 2008

The Election Commission on Tuesday announced dates for elections in Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh [Images], Delhi [Images], Mizoram and Naxalite-infested Chattisgarh.

The two-phased polls in Chattisgarh will be held on November 14 and 20 while elections will be held in Madhya Pradesh on November 25, Mizoram and Delhi on November 29 and Rajasthan on December 4.

Counting of votes in all the states will be taken up on December 8.

The commission is understood to have deferred a decision on polls in Jammu and Kashmir [Images] reportedly because of difference of opinion among the three members of the commission.

No decision has been taken 'at the moment' on holding elections in Jammu and Kashmir which is now under Governor's rule, Chief Election Commissioner N Gopalaswami said at a press conference flanked by the other two commissioners Naveen Chawla and S Y Quraishi.

He said the commission is still assessing the situation in Jammu and Kashmir.

"We will get back to you as soon as we take a decision in Jammu and Kashmir. Forces are one part of the issues. There are so many other issues. I do not want to say anything more," he said.

Asked whether it meant that elections will not be held before March because of winter, the CEC said 'that you leave it to us'.

The government had informed the Commission that it was ready to hold assembly polls in Jammu and Kashmir next month in three to four phases and as per Home Ministry's assessment of the situation in the state adequate forces are available for conducting the exercise.

The assessment of the situation for holding polls in the sensitive state was made when Union Home Secretary Madhukar Gupta met the full Election Commission in New Delhi on October 10.

While two Election Commissioners were reportedly in favour of holding elections in the state, the CEC was understood to have some reservations on it.

Gopalaswami said the Commission had visited the state and held discussions with leaders of various political parties on the situation.

"We are still assessing the situation and will get back to you as soon as we take a decision," he said.

While major political parties in the state -- PDP and NC felt the current atmosphere was not conducive for the elections, BJP and the Left parties wanted immediate polls. The Congress said it was the Commission's call.

The term of the Assembly, which was dissolved following the breakup of the Congress-PDP coalition in the wake of the Amarnath land transfer row, would have ended on November 20.

But since the state was placed under Governor's rule, the elections have to be held before January 10.

The CEC said the polls in the five states would be conducted on the basis of delimited constituencies through Electronic Voting Machines.

The terms of 230-member Madhya Pradesh assembly, 200-member Rajasthan assembly and 40-member Mizoram assembly will expire on December 14, while the terms of 70-member Delhi assembly and 90-member Chhattisgarh assembly ends on December 17 and December 21 respectively.

As per the final rolls, Rajasthan has the highest number of 3,62,19,481 electors, followed by Madhya Pradesh with 3,57,05,136, Chhattisgarh with 1,52,07,734, Delhi with 1,09,00,000 and Mizoram with 6,11,124.

While 91 per cent of the voters in Mizoram have been provided with Electors Photo Identity Cards (EPIC), in Madhya Pradesh it was 85 per cent, in Rajasthan it was 84.63 per cent, in Delhi it was 80 per cent and in Chhattisgarh it was 64.51 per cent.

The CEC said all critical events and polling at vulnerable booths would be videographed while digital cameras would be used inside polling stations wherever needed.

He said the Model Code of Conduct comes into immediate effect and would apply to all the poll-bound states and cited the provisions in the Code which clearly stated that no appeal can be made on caste or communal lines and that mosques, churches, temples or other places of worship would not be used as forum for election propaganda.

The Commission would deploy 650 observers to ensure smooth conduct of elections, he said, adding that it would keep a close watch on the officials engaged in the conduct of elections so that they discharge their duties in an impartial manner without any fear or favour.

Additional Reportage: PTI

Image: KBK Graphics

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