GUWAHATI: The Arunachal Pradesh State Election Commission’s decision to hold elections to local bodies on December 22 has met with opposition.
Opposition parties, including the Congress, and the All Arunachal Pradesh Students’ Union (AAPSU) said the panchayat and municipal elections, to be held simultaneously, during the pandemic could endanger people’s lives. They sought the deferment of the elections but the Commission remained unmoved.
The polls have been delayed by more than two years due to certain amendment to existing acts and rules for conversion of panchayat system from three-tier to two-tier and municipal councils to municipal.
“We wonder why the State Election Commission is so adamant on going ahead with the polls in these difficult times of the pandemic. It had not conducted the polls when it had time and even disregarded an order of the court that had sought the holding of the polls,” Congress spokesperson Toko Mina said.
Pointing out the spike in COVID-19 cases and deaths of people in the disease in the state, she said the elections would only put lives at risk. She further pointed out that many police personnel got infected with the disease following their deployment in the recent Bihar elections. The cases had also spiked in Mizoram following the holding of elections to local bodies there, she said to make a point.
Criticising the Commission, the People’s Party of Arunachal said the government might be forced to enforce another lockdown if the polls were held as scheduled. The party warned that the state’s far-flung and remote areas, which were still safe, could come in the grip of the pandemic post-election.
The Janata Dal (Secular) was also critical of the Commission. It insisted that the elections should not be held till the time a vaccine for COVID-19 is out or the state is officially-declared COVID-19 free.
The AAPSU, which is Arunachal’s apex students’ body, urged the Commission to reconsider its decision. It wondered why the Commission stuck to its guns on holding the polls next month when there is public unanimity against it.
Elections to the autonomous Bodoland Territorial Council in Assam will also be held next month. Mizoram was the first state in the country to hold an election during the pandemic. The polls were held in August.