NEW DELHI : Chief election commissioner Achal Kumar Joti on Monday said multiple factors, including the weather had come into play when deciding why to hold elections in Himachal Pradesh before Gujarat .
In an exclusive interview to news agency ANI, Joti said political parties and the state administration in Himachal Pradesh had requested the Election Commission to organise the polls before mid-November as there was probability of snowfall in three districts of the hill state.
"When we went to Himachal Pradesh, the state election commission, political parties and the administration told us that three districts - Kinnaur, Lahaul Spiti and Chamba - are likely to experience snowfall. Therefore, a request was made to conduct the elections earlier so that voters can cast their ballots," said Joti.
"Another main reason is that Himachal and Gujarat are not adjoining states. The EC has always made sure that the voting pattern of one state does not affect the voting pattern of another, and that is why the counting period in Himachal Pradesh has been kept on December 18. We had stated that we would plan the election schedule in Gujarat in such a way that polling in the state is over prior to Himachal result, so that the outcome of the result should not affect the voting in Gujarat," Joti told ANI.
The CEC, citing an office memorandum issued by ministry of law and justice in 2001 and approved by the Supreme Court, said, "The commission shall announce the date of any election which shall be a date ordinarily not more than three weeks prior to the date on which the notification is likely to be issued in wake of elections. The model code of conduct is applied from the day we make the announcement until the poll is over. So, if the states share the border, it should have been an issue, but with Gujarat, the situation is very different."
Referring to the Gujarat floods, which claimed hundreds of lives and caused huge damage to infrastructure, the CEC averred that the state had to undergo restoration work before elections could be organised.
The poll panel chief also underlined the fact that the government staff which would carry out the restoration work is the same lot which would carry out services during the elections. And that once the announcement for the polls is made, the government employees will have to leave the restoration work and perform election related duties.
In July, parts of Gujarat were ravaged by incessant rains and floods that claimed more than 200 lives.