When the EC announced the Gujarat election dates, it stated that the unprecedented rain and flood relief work were the chief reasons for delaying the announcement. It was also the reason given for a later date of the enforcement of the Moral Code of Conduct. However, as per RTI replies, when Jammu & Kashmir was hit by floods in 2014 just three months ahead of its Assembly polls, the Moral Code of Conduct was not affected and still implemented in the state. The September 2014 floods are considered to be the worst in living memory. However, as per the report, the flood relief and rehabilitation efforts in the state weren’t affected by the Model Code of Conduct. The EC, at that time headed by VS Sampath, had decided against delaying the polls and held it in five phases between 25 November and 20 December. This draws, even more, suspicion towards the delay in the Gujarat polls and the Moral Code of Conduct. The reason given for the delay now doesn’t seem to have the same force now. How can it be that the Commission delays the polling in one state but not in the other?
The EC faced severe backlash over the delay in announcement of Gujarat polls dates. The delay also allowed the ruling government to announce a slew of last-minute sops to woo the voters. The BJP government effected a 50% 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% GST charged on the purchase of equipment meant for drip or sprinkler irrigation. The government also tried to reach out to the Scheduled Castes as it raised the ceiling on the annual income of OBC, SC and ST beneficiaries for availing benefits from state-funded schemes. The BJP used this crucial window afforded by the delay in the announcement of the polls to also withdraw 418 cases against Patidars filed during the reservation protests to woo more votes.
This is the story of two elections, under the same Election Commission. The only difference is that Chief Election Commissioner changed between the two polls.