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Unlike Gujarat polls, EC did not delay announcement of election dates for flood-hit Jammu and Kashmir in 2014
By Our Correspondent, 07/12/2017, New Delhi

 

When announcing the Gujarat Assembly election dates on 25 October, nearly two weeks after the Himachal Pradesh poll dates were declared, the Election Commission of India (EC) stated the unprecedented rain and flood relief work in the state was the reason for delay in announcement.

However, The Indian Express reported on Wednesday that as per RTI replies, when Jammu and Kashmir was hit by floods in 2014 three months ahead of its Assembly polls, it did not affect the Model Code of Conduct from being implemented in the state.

As per the report, flood relief and rehabilitation in the northernmost state wasn't affected by Model Code of Conduct. The September 2014 floods were considered to be one of the worst to hit Jammu and Kashmir in decades. At the time, EC, then-headed by VS Sampath, had decided against delaying the polls and held it in five phases between 25 November and 20 December.

In October this year, when plied by reporters with questions about why election dates for Gujarat were not announced, the Chief Election Commissioner AK Joti had cited some office memorandums issued earlier to justify the delay in the announcement. He had said the EC had a statutory 21 days to carry out elections that can extend up to 45 days. He had also said that besides availability of central forces and festive season, the Gujarat government had told the Commission that several relief and rehabilitation works were on in the state following the July floods.

According to Joti, the Gujarat chief secretary had written to EC asking for additional time as the July floods relief and rehabilitation were yet to be completed properly as they began only in September. "They have suggested that the Model Code of Conduct should be imposed for a reasonable time, so that they do not face problems in carrying out relief and rehabilitation work," Joti had said in the 12 October press conference.

The Indian Express report stated EC records for Jammu and Kashmir 2014 election show that there was no official request from the state chief secretary to delay announcement of election dates. In fact, on 5 November, 2014, the EC wrote to the cabinet secretary, state chief secretary and state chief electoral officer, informing them they could continue with relief and rehabilitation "as per approved schemes of the central/ state governments" without prior approval from the election body.

The state government was also allowed to give out ex-gratia payment and gratuitous relief directly to victims and families without approval from EC in this case.

Gujarat poll dates delayed to allow BJP to introduce new sops?

The EC faced severe backlash over the delay in announcement of Gujarat polls dates.

Congress leader P Chidambaram had criticised the EC saying that by not announcing the Gujarat poll schedule, it has "authorised" Prime Minister Narendra Modi to declare the dates at his last rally, after all "freebies" for the state were doled out. The Congress had also alleged that the government put "pressure" on the poll panel to "delay" the announcement of Gujarat Assembly poll schedule to enable the prime minister to act as a "false Santa Claus" and offer sops.

As per this Firstpost analysis, BJP squeezed in several major sops even up until a day before the dates were announced.

The BJP government effected a 50 percent hike in the incentive paid to Accredited Social Health Activists (ASHA), village-level women workers who are a key component in the implementation of National Rural Health Mission (NRHM).

For farmers, the Vijay Rupani-government said it would waive off 18 percent Goods and Service Tax (GST) charged on the purchase of equipment meant for drip or sprinkler irrigation.

The government also tried to reach out to the backward and Scheduled Castes as it raised the ceiling on the annual income of OBC, SC and ST beneficiaries for availing benefits of state-funded schemes and scholarships.

On 22 October, Modi inaugurated a Rs 650 crore roll on-roll off (Ro-Ro) ferry service that reduces travel time by six hours between Saurashtra and South Gujarat. On 7 October, Modi laid the foundation stone of an international airport near Rajkot, Saurashtra's nerve centre and Rupani's hometown.

418 cases against Patidars filed during the reservation protests were withdrawn by the police, reported News18.

The Model Code of Conduct is enforced in order to provide a level playing field to all candidates and one of the rules include that the state or central government cannot announce new schemes from the day the dates are announced to the last day of voting.

 
 
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