Gujarat will go to the polls in two phases on December 1 and December 5 to elect representatives to 182 assembly constituencies, the Election Commission announced on Thursday.

Chief Election Commission Rajiv Kumar said in the first phase, polls would be held for 89 seats, while the remaining 93 assembly constituencies will go to the hustings on December 5.

Counting of votes for the Gujarat and Himachal Pradesh polls will be held on December 8 and the entire process would be completed two days later. Election Commissioner Anup Chandra Pandey and some of his senior colleagues were present at the press conference called to announce the elections.

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Himachal Pradesh Assembly polls on November 12
No simultaneous announcement for Gujarat where the term of the Assembly ends on February 18, 2023

Candidates can file nominations from November 5 till November 14 for seats going to polls in the first phase. For the second phase, nominations can be filed from November 10 to November 17, the EC said.

Withdrawal of candidature for the first phase of elections will be allowed till November 17 and till November 21 for the second phase.

A total of 3,24,422 new voters will vote for the first time in the Gujarat Assembly elections at 51,782 polling stations spread across the state. At least 50 per cent of the polling stations will have webcasting facilities, Kumar said.

The poll panel chief countered opposition criticism on the split announcement of the Gujarat and Himachal Pradesh polls by citing a 2017 precedent and other reasons, but said it had nothing to do with Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s pre-poll visits to his home state. The Commission had announced elections to Himachal Pradesh on October 14.

Before finalising dates, the EC factored in many things including the weather, last date of the term of the assembly (which is February 18, 2023), and the number of days the model code of conduct should be in force. “It is a combination of multiple factors and we are well within the factors of consideration, including polls in nearby states,” Kumar stated.

He accepted that the Morbi bridge collapse incident also weighed on the EC while delaying the poll announcement till Thursday. “We also had to take note of the tragedy that has befallen the state. That was also one factor for the delay. There was state mourning in the state till yesterday (Wednesday). So, it is (because of) multiple factors,” Kumar said.

On the EC’s impartiality, Kumar said he would prefer to wait for the results to respond to the credibility issue, as a large number of assembly elections have thrown up surprising outcomes. “Actually, actions and outcomes speak larger than words. In a large number of assembly elections, results have shown, at times, those who were critical of the Commission have got surprising results. I don’t want to go into details,” the Chief Election Commissioner said.

The EC said 1,274 polling stations will have all-women staff. On the other hand, 33 polling stations for the first time will be set up and managed by the youngest polling staff, the Chief Election Commissioner added.