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Govt cites Covid surge, urges SEC to put off Gram Panchayat polls

Express News Service

BENGALURU: The state government has written to the State Election Commission (SEC) seeking postponement of the Gram Panchayat elections, citing the pandemic.In Karnataka, there are 6,025 gram panchayats and their tenure ended in June/July.  In May, the SEC announced postponement of the panchayat polls citing the Covid-19 pandemic as an “exceptional circumstance”. 

Meanwhile, a PIL was filed before the Karnataka High Court questioning the postponement. As per the court direction, the SEC completed the reservation list for all panchayats and made ground preparations like issuing of Standard Operating Procedures. The Commission had written to the DCs and the IGP for their cooperation to maintain law and order. This was informed to the court.

There were plans to conduct elections in November or December and the preparations were on. But now the state government has written to SEC Commissioner Basavaraju, urging him to postpone the elections. In the letter, the authorities from Panchayat Raj mentioned about the increase in the number of Covid-19 cases. The SEC will have to make arrangements to set up close to 47,000 booths and election conducted for 94,000 members, for which lakhs of people will contest from all 6,021 panchayats, the letter said. Such huge numbers might not help people in maintaining social distancing in spite of SOPs, it said.

Speaking to TNIE, Commissioner Basavaraju said the elections were supposed to be held in June. But due to the pandemic, the SEC could not hold the polls. “A PIL was filed by an individual questioning our delay. Based on the court direction, we had started the procedures. Now, the government has written to us. We have told them to appear before the court and explain. They will appear in the next hearing,’’ he said.
Sources from SEC said that in Karnataka, bypolls for two assembly constituencies and MLC constituencies were scheduled. “With all precautionary measures in place, we are ready to conduct the elections,’’ the sources said.

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