NEW DELHI: Chhattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, Telangana and Mizoram will go to assembly polls between November 7 and 30, and the counting of votes will be on December 3, the Election Commission said on Monday, setting the stage for what is being seen as the semi-final between the BJP and opposition parties ahead of the 2024 Lok Sabha elections.
Announcing the election schedule at a press conference here, Chief Election Commissioner (CEC) Rajiv Kumar said single-phase assembly polls will be held in Madhya Pradesh on November 17, Rajasthan on November 23, Telangana on November 30 and Mizoram on November 7 while Chhattisgarh will go to the polls in two phases on November 7 (20 seats) and 17 (70 seats).
With the announcement of the poll schedule, the model code of conduct has come into force in the five states.
The EC has written to the Cabinet Secretary and chief secretaries of the five states to ensure provisions of the model code are enforced immediately.
The high-stakes polls will be a litmus test for the Congress, the biggest party in the fledgling INDIA bloc which is in power in two of the four big states, while a lot is riding for the BJP as well, as the results are bound to have a major bearing on the discourse in the run-up to Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s reelection bid next year.
The BJP and the Congress will be engaged in a direct fight in Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh and Rajasthan while the two parties are also in contention for power in Telangana, where Chief Minister K Chandrashekar Rao-led Bharat Rashtra Samithi is eyeing a third straight term.
In Mizoram, regional parties and the Congress will challenge the incumbent Mizo National Front amid the opposition party’s hope is that the political polarisation on ethnic lines following violence in Manipur may boost its chances.
However, it is the assembly polls in three Hindi-speaking states, a BJP stronghold in two consecutive Lok Sabha polls, besides Telangana, which are likely to have an outsize influence on national politics.
Despite losing to the Congress in the assembly contests, the BJP had swept the 2019 national elections in the three central and western states, which together account for 65 Lok Sabha constituencies, but knows that no two polls are alike and has been making big moves to regain power there.
In a departure from usual practice, the BJP named a large number of candidates, including several Union ministers and other MPs, in Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh before their polling schedule was announced and released fresh lists of more names for the two states and Rajasthan on Monday.
By doing so, the BJP has underlined its determined intent to get the better of the Congress which is fancying its chances after handing its rival a big defeat in Karnataka.
The BJP is also hoping to emerge as a big force in Telangana where, observers believe, the Congress has seen a rebound in its fortunes since the Karnataka polls in May.
Nearly 16 crore voters would be eligible to cast their votes in these elections, CEC Rajiv Kumar said while asserting that strong measures are being put in place to make these polls inducement-free.
He also said the poll panel has given special emphasis on making electoral rolls inclusive. The focus will be on “roll-to-poll” conversion. He said the poll machinery in the five states will make all-out efforts to ensure greater voter participation on election days.
The poll panel had been fighting apathy among the youth and urban voters who prefer to stay at home instead of going to the polling booth to exercise their franchise.
Kumar said these five states will have 1.77 lakh polling stations, of which 1.01 lakh will have webcasting facilities.
The nomination process for Mizoram and the first phase of Chhattisgarh polls will begin on October 13, while the last date of withdrawing from the electoral battle is October 23.
For Madhya Pradesh and the second phase of Chhattisgarh polls, the nomination process will begin on October 21. The last date to withdraw candidature is November 2.
The nomination process for the Rajasthan election will commence from October 30 and the last date to withdraw candidature is November 9.
The nomination process in Telangana will begin from November 3 and November 15 will be the last date to withdraw from the electoral battle.
Welcoming the announcement of assembly polls by the EC, BJP president J P Nadda claimed that his party will form government in all the states with a big majority under Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s leadership.
“The BJP will form government in all states with a big majority under respected Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s leadership and will work with commitment to fulfil people’s aspirations in the next five years,” he said on X.
Reacting to the announcement of the polls, Congress president Mallikarjun Kharge said the party will go to the people with strength and outlined public welfare, social justice and progressive development as its guarantees.
Addressing party leaders at a meeting of the Congress Working Committee (CWC), Kharge called for unity and discipline ahead of polls.
“As we approach the upcoming assembly elections and general elections, it is important that the party works with meticulous coordination and complete discipline and unity,” he said at the meeting.
Kharge also underlined the need for an effective strategy for assembly polls in the five states. He said there is renewed enthusiasm among the cadre after decisive victories in Himachal Pradesh and Karnataka while stressing the need to put in “all our might” to win in the five states.
BRS working president K T Rama Rao on Monday said K Chandrashekar Rao will become the chief minister of Telangana once again and hoped that the polls in the state are “one-sided” in favour of the ruling BRS.
In a message posted on “X”, Rama Rao, also known as KTR said, people have blessed the party twice and are ready to give a victory third time.
“It would be a third time win for KCR in the results that would be announced on December 3. It will be a new chapter in south India with an able leader being crowned,” KTR, son of Chief Minister K Chandrashekar Rao, said in the message.
At the Election Commission briefing, Kumar said more than 8,000 polling stations will be managed by women.
“We have gathered here after a gap of six months. These elections are significant for the country and after this, we will meet for the announcement of the Lok Sabha elections,” Kumar said.
“We have met all stakeholders, including political parties and enforcement agencies, while preparing for the assembly elections in Mizoram, Chhattisgarh, Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Telangana,” he said.
Chhattisgarh, Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Telangana and Mizoram have 8.2 crore male and 7.8 crore female voters, while there are 60.2 lakh first-time voters, he said citing the updated electoral rolls.
For the first time a new Election Seizure Management System is being introduced for the assembly polls to enhance oversight to ensure inducement-free elections, Kumar said.
A total of 940 checkposts have been put in place for a strict vigil along interstate borders and to dry up the inflow of illicit liquor, cash, freebies and drugs, he said.
There will be zero tolerance for the use of money power and there will be a strict vigil over suspicious online cash transfers through wallets as well, the CEC said.
Meanwhile, polling personnel in the five election-bound states will have to cast their votes at designated facilitation centres only and cannot keep the ballot papers with them for long.
Election rules were recently changed by the government on the recommendation of the Election Commission with an aim to check the potential misuse of the postal ballot facility extended to voters on poll duty.
Source: Press Trust of India