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Monday, 28 October, 2002, 07:51 GMT
Gujarat poll dates announced
Mass-funeral for Gujarat riot victims
Hundreds died in the rioting
India's independent election body has announced fresh polls in the state of Gujarat, which was hit by religious violence earlier this the year.

Voting will take place on 12 December, with counting scheduled to begin three days later.

The announcement comes even as India's Supreme Court ruled in favour of the Election Commission in a dispute over the poll dates.

The poll body had delayed the vote after deciding the situation in Gujarat was too tense to hold a fair election.

The move led to a row between the Commission and the state government, which had pushed for the vote to be held earlier.

Security arrangements

Announcing the election dates in Delhi, Chief Election Commissioner JM Lyngdoh said a request had been made for extra security personnel to be deployed during the vote.

Gujarat polls
25 Nov - Last date for filing nominations
28 Nov - Last day to withdraw candidates
12 Dec - Voting day
15 Dec - Counting of votes begins
"We think the situation is all right but we don't want to take any chances," Mr Lyngdoh told journalists.

"That's the reason why we want large security in the area."

Earlier in the year, the state was rocked by communal riots in which about 1,000 people, mostly Muslims, were killed, and thousands injured and displaced, according to official figures.

Independent bodies put the number of dead at more than 2,000.

Court victory

On Monday the Supreme Court ruled that the poll panel was within its rights to have rejected a move by the Gujarat Government to hold the elections earlier.

Narendra Modi
Mr Modi has been criticised for calling early polls
The court was adjudicating a dispute between the Election Commission and the federal and state governments which had demanded immediate elections.

The controversy erupted in July when Gujarat's Chief Minister, Narendra Modi, dissolved the state assembly and asked the for fresh polls to be organised.

Members of the Election Commission, led by Mr Lyngdoh, visited Gujarat in August.

Assessing the situation in Gujarat as "still tense", they said polls could not be held before more time had elapsed and a degree of normality restored.

Criticism

Many people driven from their homes in February and March, still live in temporary camps, waiting to rebuild their homes destroyed in the rioting, or just too scared to go back to areas still considered unsafe.

Mr Modi, a senior figure in the right-wing Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), was criticised by observers at home and abroad for "negligence" and even "complicity" in the violence.

But supported by the BJP-led central government in Delhi, he resisted pressure to resign until July.

The debate between Mr Lyngdoh and Mr Modi became bitter and at one stage Prime Minister Vajpayee had to intervene to calm passions.

Critics say Mr Modi and the BJP are biased against India's Muslim minority, and are seeking to exploit Gujarat's deep religious divide by bringing forward elections originally due early next year.

Gujarat conflict in-depth

Key vote

Tense state

Background

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26 Aug 02 | South Asia
18 Aug 02 | South Asia
19 Jul 02 | South Asia
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