The Gujarat assembly election will be held in mid-December, according to a senior source in the Election Commission of India.
The last assembly election in 2007 was held in two phases on December 11 and 16. The ECI says the 2012 election will be held "more or less at the same time" as in 2007.
The EC understands well how the Gujarat assembly election has assumed importance.
While speaking off the record, the source in the EC said, "The stakes of all parties are high in the state. The Gujarat election is precursor to 2014 general election. Gujarat will be under watch of all parties and the media as well. We are alert and keeping a watch on all aspects of it."
In view of the political sensitivity involved in conducting the election in Gujarat, the EC head office is conducting many meetings. One such meeting was held on Tuesday where select officers from excise, income tax and revenue departments of poll-bound states had participated. They would function as nodal officers.
Although Gujarat has implemented the prohibition policy and has banned sale or use of liquor in the state the policy is a spectacular failure. The EC will keep watch on the clandestine distribution of liquor through the nodal officers and their teams.
Importantly, in Gujarat, the EC has identified some 50 constituencies (25 to 30 percent) out of 182 where it thinks money power will be misused to influence voters. In the development-oriented state more than the issue of law and order or muscle power, the menace of 'paid news' and money power is more prevalent. The EC is formulating a strategy to keep tab of it.
The senior EC official claims that Gujarat is set to join the list of the states like Karnataka, Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh where use of money power to win the election has crossed the limits.
The EC official says that the "expenditure sensitive" constituencies in Gujarat will be under watch.
The voters list of Gujarat is ready after many round of meetings with political parties and interested groups. Recently, the displaced people from the Sabramati river bank of Ahmedabad had met CEC Sampath to get their voter's cards. Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi has built a Rs 30-crore project on the river front displacing thousands of people.
Currently, the representatives of Gujarat-based political parties are participating in ongoing exercise of checking of electronic voting machines. In the presence of representatives, the EVMs are operated. The data of the last election is erased and the machine is double-checked to keep ready for use.
The machines that control the data are sealed in the presence of the representatives of political parties.
The assembly election of Gujarat and Himachal Pradesh will be held simultaneously. The EC official also said that in Himachal Pradesh, election may be held early in three constituencies due to closing of roads in winter.