NEW DELHI: Assembly elections in Himachal Pradesh will be held in a single phase on November 12, 2022, the Election Commission (EC) announced on Friday. Counting of votes will be done on December 8, 2022.
The EC was expected to announce the dates for Gujarat assembly elections as well but officials said the polls in the state have been delinked from Himachal to cut the duration of enforcement of mode code of conduct (MCC).
Tough contest in Himachal
In the 68-member Himachal Pradesh assembly, the BJP currently has 45 MLAs while the Congress has 22 and CPI(M) 1.
The last state assembly election was held on November 9, 2017, wherein the BJP secured 44 seats while the Congress won 21 seats.
Himachal Pradesh has a history of not returning the incumbent to office but the BJP is hoping to reverse the trend.
The Congress, meanwhile, is hoping to revive its party by wresting a state from the BJP. The party got a shot in the arm after winning the by-elections in the Mandi parliamentary seat along with the assembly seats of Arki, Jubbal-Kotkhai and Fatehpur last year.
In the upcoming assembly elections, the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) is looking to set foot in Himachal Pradesh. After a massive victory in Punjab, the party is looking to spread its wings to other parts of the country.
Analysts said the AAP is likely to eat into Congress votes, resulting in an advantage for the BJP.
Why no dates for Gujarat?
“Various factors were considered, including convention, gap in qualifying dates and weather,” said the EC on not announcing Gujarat poll dates along with Himachal. The panel has followed the convention of 2017 announcement when Himachal and Gujarat polls were delinked.
There is a gap of 40 days between expiry of terms of Gujarat and Himachal Pradesh. The term of the 14th Gujarat assembly will end on February 18 next year, while the term of the 13th Himachal Pradesh assembly will end on January 8, 2023.
“Last time, Gujarat polls were held with Himachal (counting on same day). There was a huge gap between announcement of Himachal polls and counting day in 2017 (70 days) and 2012 (81 days). This had led to an extended MCC period … We do not want entire election process to continue for a very long period,” said officials.
Poll dates for Gujarat are expected to be announced in the coming weeks.
Congress hits out at EC decision
Reacting to separation of poll dates, senior Congress leader Jairam Ramesh tweeted: “Obviously, this has been done to give more time to the PM to make some mega promises and carry out more inaugurations. Not at all surprising.”
Back-to-back rallies and visits by top leaders, including Prime Minister Narendra Modi, had set the stage for the crucial elections in the two BJP-ruled states. Last month, the Chief Election Commissioner Rajiv Kumar and Election Commissioner Anup Chandra Pandey had visited Gujarat and Himachal to review poll preparedness.
(With inputs from agencies)