Jharkhand chief minister Raghubar Das. (HT)
Jharkhand chief minister Raghubar Das. (HT)

Jharkhand to vote in five phases, verdict on 23 December

  • The first phase of elections will begin on 30 Nov, remaining four to take place in December
  • In 2014, too, the state, which is affected by Left Wing Extremism, had a five-phase election

NEW DELHI : The electoral and political test for Jharkhand chief minister Raghubar Das is set to take place across five phases beginning 30 November. Counting will take place on 23 December, the Election Commission (EC) announced on Friday.

The polls for the remaining four phases will take place on 7 December, 12 December, 16 December and 20 December. In 2014, too, Jharkhand, which is affected by Left Wing Extremism (LWE), had a five-phase election. The tenure of the current assembly ends on 5 January.

Graphic by Naveen Kumar Saini/Mint
Graphic by Naveen Kumar Saini/Mint

The schedule was announced at a joint press conference by chief election commissioner Sunil Arora and election commissioner Sushil Chandra.

Arora said election commissioner Ashok Lavasa had to miss the briefing as he was attending a conference abroad. “The instructions for model code of conduct will go out as soon as the press conference ends," Arora said.

For the first time in India’s electoral process, people with disability and senior citizens above 80 years will be allowed to vote through postal ballots in the Jharkhand elections. “Our demand for e-voting for people with disability, senior citizens and those belonging to essential services has been accepted. The only thing is that the essential services part could not be rolled out for Jharkhand elections, but we assure you this will be done during Delhi elections," Arora added.

Jharkhand has 81 assembly constituencies, out of which nine are reserved for Scheduled Castes (SC) and 28 for Scheduled Tribes (ST).

According to the Election Commission’s final electoral roll, as of 1 January 2019, Jharkhand had over 22.6 million voters.

To ensure safety of electronic voting machines (EVMs) and voter-verifiable paper audit trail (VVPATs), the Election Commission has called for mandatory GPS tracking. “The commission has instructed the chief electoral officer of the concerned state that end-to-end movement of all reserve EVMs and VVPATs shall be carefully monitored at all times, for which all sector officers’ vehicles with reserve EVMs and VVPATs shall mandatorily be fitted with GPS tracking system," a press release by the EC said.

In 2014, the Bharatiya Janata Party-All Jharkhand Students Union (AJSU) had got a clear majority with 42 seats in the 81-member assembly, with the BJP alone picking up 37. Jharkhand Mukti Morcha (JMM) was the largest opposition party with 19 seats, Jharkhand Vikas Morcha (Prajatantrik) won eight and Congress managed only six seats.

The BJP under Prime Minister Narendra Modi had undertaken a political experiment by choosing to make Das, a non-tribal, the chief minister of Jharkhand, a first for the state.

The previous chief ministers of BJP were Babulal Marandi and Arjun Munda.

After the results of Maharashtra and Haryana elections, the BJP leadership will be cautious about its electoral performance in Jharkhand. Although the BJP managed to form the government in Haryana with the help of Jannayak Janata Party (JJP), the party failed to get a majority on its own. In Maharashtra, the BJP is yet to reach a consensus with ally Shiv Sena over power-sharing.

Therefore, the party will be keen to improve its electoral prospects in Jharkhand to return to power with a clear majority on its own.

Jharkhand will also be a high-stake election for opposition parties, who are trying to wrest power in the state by forming an anti-BJP platform.

Talks are on between the Congress and JMM, besides other key regional parties to come to a seat sharing arrangement. The opposition has a considerable amount of ground to cover, considering that just five months ago the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) won 12 out of the 14 Lok Sabha seats.

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