Now that a slew of projects have been announced by Prime Minister Narendra Modi in poll-bound Gujarat in the course of his three recent visits, there is hope that the Election Commission will soon announce dates for the Assembly elections. Meanwhile, the BJP-led State government has launched projects worth ₹775 crore.

Assembly elections are due in Himachal Pradesh and Gujarat; the term of the Gujarat Assembly ends on January 22, and that of Himachal on January 7. But the EC has withheld the dates of the Gujarat polls while announcing those for Himachal and announcing the date of counting for both, citing that the model code of conduct could hamper the ongoing flood relief work in the State. This has raised several questions; even former Election Commissioners have pointed out that this creates “grounds for suspicion”. Usually, when elections are due in several States within a period of six months, the EC generally combines the dates.

There have been several reports on the likely impact of demonetisation and GST on the ruling BJP in Gujarat, a State that thrives on small businesses and trade. Gujarat has also been a nursery for Modi’s political growth and has placed him on the national stage. However, the EC cannot afford to be seen to be partisan. By giving ample time for the model code to kick in, it has created room for defections and allegations of money being offered to switch sides.

Also, hasn’t the EC been unfair in enforcing the model code in Himachal Pradesh and not in Gujarat, even as votes for both are to be counted on the same date — December 18? Why deprive the people of one State from pre-poll packages and projects? The EC owes some answers to over 1.25 crore Indians who look up to it to uphold democratic principles.

Senior Deputy Editor