NEW DELHI: This is the first time in the electoral history of India that the Chief Election Commission, seen as an ‘independent’ body, has announced the counting date for a poll it has yet to announce.

So Gujarat votes for the Assembly elections will be counted on December 18. But when will the polling take place? No one has an idea, but sources said that going by the counting date, polling in Gujarat should be sometime between November 10-15. Himachal Pradesh will vote on November 9, with the votes also be counted on December 18.

The Opposition in Gujarat is so befuddled that it has not even bothered to approach the Chief Election Commission about its obstinate failure to announce the polling days for the Gujarat Assembly polls. “What's the point,” said Congress campaign-in-charge Siddhartha Patel maintaining that the CEC was clearly working to accommodate the tour schedule of Prime Minister Narendra Modi so that he could make his electoral announcements for Gujarat without the model code kicking in. And clearly was working under the directions of the Prime Minister, belying its reputation of being an independent body.

The team of election officers sent to gauge the situation in Gujarat had given sufficient indication that the process would not be smooth. At a press conference they spoke of the marriage season, the festivals, saying all this would have to be looked at before firming the poll days. And then two days later they announced the Himachal Pradesh polling on November 9, and the counting date December 18 for both HP and Gujarat.

Significantly, the CEC usually announces simultaneous elections in states where the Assemblies term ends within two weeks of each other. Himachal and Gujarat have shared polling dates in the past, and this time too a simultaneous announcement was expected. Gujarat Assembly term ends next year on January 22, and Himachal Pradesh term ends on January 7.

The Chief Election Commission’s brazen behaviour has raised considerable controversy, with Gujarat being crucial for the BJP that is clearly not feeling very secure in what is considered to be PM Modi’s home state. The impact of demonetisation and more so GST has not been favourable for the BJP with huge rallies of traders and the business community being seen in different parts of the state, in particular Surat and Ahmedabad.

Pattidar Hardik Patel is campaigning hard against the BJP, refusing to be won over by various overtures from the ruling dispensation. OBC leader Alpesh Thakor will take a decision by the end of this month insofar as support, or otherwise to the Congress is concerned. Dalit leader Jignesh Mevani has remained reticent till date.

Interestingly Aam Aadmi Party and Arvind Kejriwal is still not very clear about contesting the polls. Should we, should we not, seems to be the mantra of AAP with the defeat in the Punjab polls taking the edge of the party’s ambitions in Gujarat. After making it clear that AAP will not contest the Gujarat elections, Kejriwal seemed to have been toying with the idea of contesting 21 Assembly seats. But lately again there has been some second thoughts with Patel pointing out that there was still no real clarity about this from the AAP office.

Significantly the CEC had no explanation for its failure to announce the polling dates for Gujarat, despite sharp criticism from not just the opposition but former CEC SY Qureshi.