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"We will have VVPAT (voter verified paper audit trail) voting machines along with Electronic Voting Machines (EVM); height of voting compartments will be increased to 30 inches...For the first time Himachal Pradesh will have 136 all women managed booths...Model code of conduct for Himachal Pradesh assembly election comes into effect from now itself, " says CEC Achal Kumar Jyoti.
Rahul Gandhi’s attack on the BJP in Gujarat has focused on demonetisation and the losses suffered by small and medium business because of glitches in its rollout. The GST Council’s decision last week which gave some relief to small traders may help the BJP woo back some of the support from the traders’ community. This will be the first Assembly election in the country since the rollout of the Goods and Services Tax on July 1. Coming two years before the 2019 Lok Sabha elections, these may also serve as a mood gauger for both parties.
A factor which may impact the outcome of the two elections is the impending elevation of Rahul Gandhi as the party chief. The Congress vice-president is tipped to take over the reins from his mother Sonia Gandhi after Diwali. Party leaders say elevating Rahul Gandhi just ahead of Gujarat and Himachal polls is a better proposition that effecting this leadership change ahead of the 2019 Lok Sabha elections. The Grand Old Party, which has been reduced to ruling only five states, is facing anti-incumbency in Himachal. Adding to its troubles is a disproportionate assets case against Chief Minister Virbhadra Singh, who has been picked as the CM candidate again.
Former chief minister Anandiben Patel will not be contesting the Gujarat election and has cited her age as the reason. Writing to BJP chief Amit Shah, she had said she would like to stay away because of the ‘75-year criterion’ and that she would like to work in the role of a "margadarshak". She urged him to nominate a local BJP worker instead of her in Ghatlodiya, the constituency she has represented since 1998.
The Congress suffered a big setback ahead of the crucial Gujarat elections when regional strongman and former CM Shankersinh Vaghela quit the party last month. He has now lent support to Jan Vikalp, a front which projects itself as an alternative to the Congress and the BJP. Vaghela has even alleged that the two national parties had “struck a deal” in recent Rajya Sabha elections in the state. "The fixing was that the BJP will allow Ahmed Patel to win the Rajya Sabha seat and the Congress will ensure a victory for the BJP in the Assembly elections," Vaghela had said.
In Gujarat, Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi and BJP chief Amit Shah began heated campaigns earlier this month. While the Congress took on the BJP for issues ranging from demonetisation to attacks by self-styled cow vigilantes, the saffron party raked up the issue of dynastic politics. Two other factors to consider in Gujarat this time — poll debut in the state by the Aam Aadmi Party and the Patidar agitation.
While the term of the 182-member Gujarat Assembly ends on January 22, the term of the 68-member Himachal Pradesh Assembly ends on January 7. Key players Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and the Congress have both launched their poll pitches for the two states. In Himachal, the Congress has endorsed incumbent Virbhadra Singh as the CM candidate, while the BJP is tipped to pick either two-time CM Prem Kumar Dhumal or Union Health Minister JP Nadda.
The Election Commission is likely to announce the dates for Gujarat and Himachal Pradesh Assembly elections on Thursday. The three-member Election Commission headed by Chief Election Commissioner AK Jyoti will address a press conference at 4pm. Sources in the EC told News18 that Gujarat is likely to vote in two phases and Himachal in a single phase.
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