Is EC adopting double yard stick in Uttarakhand

Dehradun : The recent announcement of the Election Commission(EC) to hold elections to the Uttarakhand vidhan sabha on Jan 30, may have caught the political parties by surprise, but it has raised a hornet’s nest and fingers have also started been pointing at it with allegations for being biased heavily in favour of the Congress party.

Uttarakhand chief minister B C Khanduri had sent a missive to the EC requesting that the date of elections be postponed to the scheduled dates in late February as in the past on the plea that the higher reaches of the small mountain state will be under snow and a cold wave sweeping the state at that time.

However, the request was turned down with the Chief Election Commissioner taking the plea that what was the surety that there would be no snow or rain in late February and chilly conditions not prevail. However, this has not been taken to lightly both in political and official circles in the state, as there is strong opinion that elections should have been held at the scheduled dates in late February and not preponed.

Citing the example of the adjoining mountain state of Himachal Pradesh, political observers here said that whenever elections in the state are held in December or January, elections to the three assembly segment of Lahaul and Spiti, Kinnaur and Pangi are either preponed or postponed because these regions are under snow and not only the voters, but even the poll officials would face immense difficulties.

But this fact had been overlooked by the EC as far as Uttarakhand is concerned. There are seven assembly segments in the higher reached – Purola, Yamunotri, Gangotri, Kedarnath, Dharuchula, Pithoragarh and Didihatt that will be snow bound in late January, when the vidhan sabha election are scheduled.

Not only will the electorate of the region have migrated to areas lower down, but even those staying back would rather prefer the warmth of their homes than facing blizzards to come and vote. Likewise the poll parties that will be deputed for poll duty will have second thoughts.

There is strong resentment that polling in these seven assembly segments have been scheduled to be held with the rest of the state. Popular opinion is that like in Himachal Pradesh, polling in these snow bound constituencies should either have been preponed or postponed. As there is no time for preponing the election, they could have been postponed for a later date in May or June.

Popular opinion is that the early elections are likely to favour the Congress party as there will be a lower turn out because of the chilly winter conditions, which will be detrimental to the ruling BJP.

It is no wonder that the BJP has raised a hue and cry over the matter, but then the party is within its legitimate right as there is logic in their opposing Jan 30 as election date in Uttarakhand and the double yard stick being adopted by the Election Commission.

A journalist with over 40 years of experience, Jagdish Bhatt is Editor Hill Post (Uttarakhand). Jagdish has worked with India's leading English dailies, which include Times of India, Indian Express, Pioneer and several other reputed publications. A highly acclaimed journalist, Jagdish is a recipient of many awards, latest being the 2011 Development Journalism Award. He lives in Dehra Dun.

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