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Election Commission decision on Gujarat poll dates under cloud?

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[vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]Election Commission of India’s (EC) reasons for its decision to defer announcement of Gujarat election dates have come under a cloud following information obtained under a right to information (RTI) query.

While the doubts over dependability of electronic voting machines (EVMs) refuse to die down despite EC’s stout defence, this has given rise further questions about the EC’s handling of elections.

On October 12, the EC announced dates for elections to Himachal Pradesh Assembly but withheld dates for Gujarat Assembly polls. Both state assemblies’ terms expire within two weeks of each other and this seemed unusual. The EC explained that announcement of Gujarat election dates was withheld so that the model code of conduct does not affect flood relief work necessitated by unprecedented rains in Gujarat.

The model code of conduct is intended to provide a level playing field to all candidates and bars the government from announcing new schemes to woo voters once the election dates are announced. It remains in force till polling is over.

The Indian Express (IE) has reported that replies to RTI queries show that model code of conduct was in force in Jammu and Kashmir when relief work was on following massive flooding in the state in 2014. The code of conduct did not come in the way of relief work. The September 2014 Jammu and Kashmir floods, in which over 300 died and thousands affected, were considered one of the worst to hit the state in decades. The EC, then headed by VS Sampath, had decided against delaying the polls and held it in five phases between 25 November and 20 December. The state recorded 65 per cent voter turnout, the highest in 25 years.

In October this year, replying to questions from reporters about reasons for withholding announcement of Gujarat poll dates, Chief Election Commissioner AK Joti had cited some office memorandums issued earlier to justify the delay in the announcement. He had said the EC had a statutory 21 days to carry out elections that can extend up to 45 days. He had also said that besides availability of central forces and festive season, the Gujarat government had told the Commission that several relief and rehabilitation works were on in the state following the July floods.

According to Joti, the Gujarat chief secretary had written to EC asking for additional time as the relief and rehabilitation for July floods had begun only in September and were yet to be completed. “They have suggested that the Model Code of Conduct should be imposed for a reasonable time, so that they do not face problems in carrying out relief and rehabilitation work,” Joti had said.

While the EC found merit in Gujarat’s request, records showed that the model code of conduct did not affect relief and rehabilitation work for J&K floods. According to the IE report, EC records for Jammu and Kashmir 2014 election show that there was no official request from the state chief secretary to delay announcement of election dates. On November 5, 2014, the EC wrote to the cabinet secretary, state chief secretary and state chief electoral officer, informing them that it had relaxed model code provisions and they could continue with relief and rehabilitation “as per approved schemes of the central/ state governments” and no prior approval from EC was required for this.

The state government was also allowed to give out ex-gratia payment and gratuitous relief directly to victims and families without approval from EC in this case.

The IE reported that it had filed a separate RTI application seeking copies of letters written by the Gujarat Chief Secretary requesting delay in announcement of polls on account of relief work. The EC acknowledged the receipt of two letters, on September 27 and October 2, but did not provide their copies on the ground that the file was “under submission”. The EC also said that it had not issued any reply to the Gujarat Chief Secretary in response to the two letters.

The delay in announcement of Gujarat election dates, in the name of flood relief work, was used by BJP government in Gujarat for announcing a number of sops right up to a day before the election dates were finally announced on Nov 1.

The BJP government effected a 50 percent hike in the incentive paid to Accredited Social Health Activists (ASHA), village-level women workers who are a key component in the implementation of National Rural Health Mission (NRHM).

For farmers, the Vijay Rupani-government said it would waive off 18 percent Goods and Service Tax (GST) charged on the purchase of equipment meant for drip or sprinkler irrigation.

The government raised the ceiling on the annual income of OBC, SC and ST beneficiaries for availing benefits of state-funded schemes and scholarships.

On 22 October, Modi inaugurated a Rs 650 crore roll on-roll off (Ro-Ro) ferry service that reduces travel time by six hours between Saurashtra and South Gujarat.

418 cases against Patidars filed during the reservation protests were withdrawn by the police, reported News18.

The EC decision to delay Gujarat election dates came in for severe criticism.

Congress leader P Chidambaram had criticised the EC saying that by not announcing the Gujarat poll schedule, it has “authorised” Prime Minister Narendra Modi to declare the dates at his last rally, after all “freebies” for the state were doled out. The Congress had also alleged that the government put “pressure” on the poll panel to “delay” the announcement of Gujarat Assembly poll schedule to enable the prime minister to act as a “false Santa Claus” and offer sops.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row]

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Prime Minister Narendra Modi reveals plan for ambitious 2047 Viksit Bharat project, says work for the project has been ongoing for last 2 years

The Prime Minister said that he does not mean to scare or suppress anyone, but rather has plans to make India a developed nation by 2047.

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A day after the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) released its election manifesto, which aims at building a Viksit Bharat, Prime Minister Narendra Modi, in an interview with the media, outlined his vision for India’s development by 2047. He also addressed concerns raised by the opposition parties, who suggest that the BJP might seek to amend the Constitution if re-elected in the upcoming Lok Sabha elections.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi gave his assurance to the people that they do not need to fear when he said that he has big plans for the country in his election speeches. Explaining statement, the Prime Minister said that he does not mean to scare or suppress anyone, but rather has plans to make India a developed nation by 2047.

Speaking to the media, PM Modi said, when he says that he has big plans, no one should be scared. He said he does not take decisions to scare or run-over anyone, he takes decisions for the wholesome development of the country. He added the government always says they have done everything.  He said he did not believe that he had done everything. He added he had tried to do everything in the right direction, yet there is so much he needed to do, because he saw that his country has so many needs.

The Prime minister asked how did he fulfill the dreams of every family? He said this is the reason why he said this has been a trailer. PM Modi said he had been working on the ambitious 2047 Viksit Bharat project for the past two years. And for that, he asked for opinions and suggestions from people across India.  He said he had taken suggestions from more than 15 lakh people on how they want to see India in the coming 25 years.

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Kangana Ranaut meets Dalai Lama in Dharamshala shares pictures on social media ahead of Lok Sabha elections, post goes viral

The Bollywood actor met Tibetan spiritual leader Dalai Lama in Himachal Pradesh’s Dharamshala and said it as one of the most memorable moments of her life.

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The Bollywood actor and BJP candidate for the Mandi Lok Sabha seat met Tibetan spiritual leader Dalai Lama in Himachal Pradesh’s Dharamshala on Monday. She said it as one of the most memorable moments of her life. Kangana Ranaut also shared pictures on social media.

The Lok Sabha elections in Himachal Pradesh are scheduled for June 1, marking the seventh phase of elections to elect four members of the 18th Lok Sabha. As the voting day is still over a month away, candidates contesting in the 4 constituencies are actively participating in various campaign activities. Among them, the BJP’s star candidate Kangana Ranaut, who is contesting from Mandi against Congress’s Vikramaditya Singh, is leaving no stone unturned to win the votes of the people.

Kangana Ranaut also shared what Dalai Lama told her during the meeting. She said, his Holiness ji said that he enjoys being in Himachal Pradesh and absolutely loves Bharat. She said this is such a privilege and such an honour. After her meeting with the spiritual leader, the actor told the media that it was divine. She said it was an experience which she will cherish all her life. She thought it is exceptional to be in the presence of such a being who has sheer divinity around him. She said it was very emotional for her and ex-CM Jairam Thakur. She added she will cherish this experience all her life.

Earlier, Kangana Ranaut slammed Himachal Pradesh minister Vikramaditya Singh for calling her the queen of controversies while she was addressing a poll rally in Mandi. She said, Yeh tumhare baap-dada ki riyasat nahin hai, ke tum mujhe dara, dhamka ke vapis bhej doge. She further added this is the new Bharat of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, where a small, poor boy who used to sell tea is the biggest hero and pradhan sevak of the people.

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Election Commission records highest inducement seizure of Rs 4,650 crore ahead of Lok Sabha election

The Election Commission of India records highest inducement seizure of Rs 4,650 in 75-years of history.

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The Election Commission of India (ECI) announced on Monday that the upcoming Lok Sabha elections are expected to witness the highest ever seizures of inducements.

According to a notification from the poll board, enforcement agencies had already seized a record Rs 4,650 crore before the first round of polling, which is yet to start. This was a significant increase over the Rs 3,475 crores seized during the entire Lok Sabha election in 2019.

As part of a level playing field, the Election Commission said that the enhanced seizures reflect ECI’s unwavering commitment to monitor inducements and curb electoral malpractices, particularly in favour of smaller and less resourceful parties.

Significantly, narcotics and drugs, which are the Commission’s main focus, account for 45% of the seizures. The poll body continued, the seizures have been made possible by thorough planning, increased cooperation and coordinated deterrent action by agencies, proactive public participation, and optimal use of technology.

The commission also made statistics on the distribution of inducements that were seized available for public consumption by state. With a seizure of over Rs 778 crore, Rajasthan topped the list. Gujarat came in second with Rs 605 crore, and Maharashtra came in third with roughly Rs 431 crore.

When announcing the polls last month, Chief Election Commissioner (CEC) Rajiv Kumar highlighted money power as one of the 4M challenges, along with money, muscle, misinformation, and Model Code of Conduct violations.

Use of black money, over and above political financing and accurate disclosure thereof, may disturb the level playing field in favor of a more resourceful party or candidate in specific geographies, the panel stated in its statement released on Monday.

The poll authority claims that the seizures are an essential part of the ECI’s resolve to hold fair elections for the Lok Sabha that are free from electoral malpractices and inducements.

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