India’s Election Commission on Wednesday announced dates for assembly polls in five states, Manipur, Uttarakhand, Goa, Uttar Pradesh and Punjab.
Addressing a press conference in New Delhi, the Chief Election Commissioner, Nasim Zaidi, said, “Over 16 crore people will take part in these elections. The Commission will distribute photo voters’ slip. There will be complete accountability in distribution of photo voter’s slip.”
The first phase of Uttar Pradesh Assembly elections covering 73 constituencies in 15 districts will be held on February 11, while 67 constituencies spread over 11 districts will go to polls on February 15 in Phase II.
Similarly, for Phase III covering 69 constituencies in 12 districts of the states, polls will be held on February 19 and Phase IV and Phase V will be held on February 23 and February 27, covering 53 and 52 constituencies respectively.
Phase VI of UP polls covering 49 will be held on March 4 and the last phase covering 40 seats will be held on March 8. The assembly polls in Punjab and Goa with 117 and 40 constituencies respectively, will be held in one go on February 4, with the poll process being set rolling on January 11 with the filing of nominations. Uttarakhand with 70 assembly constituencies will go to polls in one go on February 15, while Manipur will have polling in two phases on March 4 and 8.
The poll process will start in Uttarakhand on January 20, while that for Manipur will commence on February 11 with the issue of notification, where the nominations will start. Zaidi said the use of black money in these elections is expected to reduce post demonetisation, but use of other illegal inducements in different forms may see an increase.
On being asked that the schedule may not go down well with Aam Aadmi Party, which would have preferred different dates for elections in Punjab and Goa, Zaidi said, “We expected political parties to cooperate because the dates were finalised in consultation with all stakeholders.”
On the quewstion of the Union Budget possibly being presented at an earlier date, Zaidi said, “Commission has received one representations with regard to presentation of budget. We are examining it and will take call on it in due course.”
Here’s how different parties and their leaders reacted on the new dates;
Arvind Kejriwal, AAP
Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal today said the people of Punjab are getting impatient to root out the Akali-BJP coalition in the state and want to bring in the “honest AAP” to help rid people of drug menace and corruption.
Election Commission today announced the dates for the high-stakes Assembly elections in five states, including Goa and Punjab which will go to polls on February 4.
“Goa and Punjab will go to polls on February 4. We welcome this. People had been waiting impatiently for the announcement of poll dates in the two states,” Kejriwal said here.
Kejriwal and other AAP leaders have been campaigning extensively in Punjab over the last few months and the young party hopes to replicate its stunning performance in Delhi Assembly elections. It also seeks to expand its footprint beyond the national capital.
“The condition of people has worsened to such a level that they are getting impatient to root out the Akali-BJP coalition government in Punjab,” he alleged.
Drug menace and corruption are among the major issues that AAP has been raising even as it is reaching out to people in the state through its intensive campaigning, both on ground and on social media.
“People of Punjab want to bring honest AAP into power which can help them get rid of the drug menace and corruption,” Kejriwal claimed.
BSP chief Mayawati:
Expressing apprehension that voters could be influenced through announcements in the Union Budget, BSP chief Mayawati today asked the Election Commission to instruct the Centre to present the general budget only after completion of polling in all the five states in March.
“The EC should instruct the central government not to present the general budget on February 1 and just as 2012, it be presented only after the completion of polling on March 8,” Mayawati said in a party release here.
“Voters can be influenced through the budget and thereby free and fair elections can be effected,” she said.
Mayawati’s plea to the EC came moments after Chief Election Commissioner Nasim Zaidi announced the poll schedule for five states and said the Commission was examining the representation of various political parties for not allowing the presentation of the Union Budget during the poll process.
Zaidi said various political parties have represented to the Election Commission regarding the issue of presentation of Union Budget which is likely to be presented on February 1 by the central government as it falls during the election campaign to five states.
“The Commission is examining this representation and in due course of time will take a call on this,” he said when asked about the issue.
The BSP supremo also asked the EC to maintain a hawk eyed vigil on rivals BJP, SP and Congress and ensure strict compliance of the Model Code of Conduct as these parties are in the “habit of flouting” it, as has been experienced in 2014 Lok Sabha polls.
Welcoming the decision to hold seven-phased elections in UP, Mayawati alleged that the state’s police and machinery had been used for political purposes by the Akhilesh Yadav government and there were chances that it could be misused by the caretaker government as well.
To check any misuse of the police and administration by the care-taker government, there is a need to deploy central forces as much as possible and keep a close watch on local police, she said.
Mayawati said that her party will contest the Assembly polls in Uttarakhand and Punjab besides Uttar Pradesh on its own.
Capt Amarinder Singh, Sheila Dikshit- Congress
Punjab Congress chief Amarinder Singh hailed the ECs decision to hold elections in the state in one go, a move, which he said, was in line with a request his party had made to the EC to ensure proper law and order situation during polls period there.
“This is good, we will beat both the Akali-BJP coalition and the AAP and they will know where Punjab is standing,” he added.
Congress Chief Ministerial candidate in Uttar Pradesh, Sheila Dikshit, too said the party will go for a time-bound programme in the politically crucial state and “will contest to win”.
BJP leader from Uttarakhand, Vijay Bahuguna, said people from the hill state were “awaiting” to throw the “corrupt and anti-people” Congress government, led by Harish Rawat. He said the party will bank on Prime Minister Narendra Modis canvassing to gain power.
With opposition parties protesting the move to present Union Budget on February 1, BJP today rubbished their claims saying it is a constitutional exercise that should not be linked to election cycle.
A senior party leader also did not rule out announcement of sops for different segments of society in the budget, saying Union budgets have been presented in the past during elections and it cannot be any different this year.
“Union Budgets timing and announcements cannot be subject to schedule of various elections. It has never been like this,” he said.
Several opposition parties have sought postponement of the budget, alleging that the government may use this to influence the upcoming Assembly polls in five states.
Chief Election Commissioner Nasim Zaidi today said the Election Commission is examining the representation of various political parties for not allowing the presentation of the Union Budget during the poll process of five states and will take a call on it soon.
(With agencies inputs)