Former Chief Election Commissioner TS Krishnamurthy on Monday told The Indian Express that the poll panel’s decision to not announce simultaneous elections for Gujarat and Himachal Pradesh was an “avoidable controversy”.
The Election Commission had said that the Assembly elections in Himachal Pradesh will be held on November 9 and the results will be declared on December 18, but it did not announce the schedule for the Gujarat polls. Chief Election Commissioner Achal Kumar Joti, however, had said the Gujarat elections will be held before December 18.
“All this controversy could have been avoided with better management,” Krishnamurthy told The Indian Express. “I suppose they could have announced both the Gujarat and Himachal Pradesh elections together, either one week before or after the other.”
The former poll panel chief clarified that by a controversy, he was not referring to allegations that the Election Commission’s decision was influenced by outside forces. “I am concerned with whether administratively, a solution could have been found...I think I would have found a solution,” he said.
Joti had said that relief and rehabilitation of flood-affected areas in Gujarat was one of the factors for the delay in announcing the poll dates. But Krishnamurthy pointed out that emergency flood relief work is done by bureaucrats, not politicians.
“The Model Code of Conduct does not stand in the way of any emergency relief work,” he explained, saying it also does not stop existing projects from continuing either. “Only new projects should not be announced during the period.”
Krishnamurthy is the second former chief election commissioner to question the delay. On October 13, former Chief Election Commissioner SY Quraishi had said: “What were the compulsions of the EC to announce the poll dates for Himachal and not Gujarat? They must have some good reasons to justify this.”
Quraishi had also said that Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to Gujarat on Monday also creates a “ground of suspicion” for the delay.
The Model Code of Conduct comes into effect – both in the state and for the Centre – when an election schedule is announced. This means that politicians in Gujarat are not yet barred from making announcements that could sway voters.