BENGALURU: The State Government is unsure if gram panchayat elections can be held anytime soon, but has gone ahead and approved the purchase of a highend Multi-Utility Vehicle for ‘election duty’ use of the State Election Commissioner. The move comes at a time when the government is facing a severe fund crunch even as it battles the Covid-19 outbreak.
Elections to 5,800 of the 6,025 gram panchayats in the state have been necessitated as their tenure expires between May and June. As per rules, the elections are to be held before expiry of the term. However, citing “exceptional circumstances’’ in the light of the pandemic, the State Election Commission (SEC) had put it off and no further date was announced.
In July last year, the SEC auctioned the Tata Indigo which was being used by State Election Commissioner and placed a request with the government for a Toyota Innova Crysta. The reason cited was the gram panchayat elections in 2020 and taluk panchayat elections in 2021, for which the Commissioner would have to travel extensively across the state. At that time, the SEC had Rs 78 lakh in grants and, in November 2019, the Finance Department approved the purchase of a Toyota Corolla at a cost Rs 14 lakh from the available funds.
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However, the SEC sent later another request stressing that the post of State Election Commissioner is equivalent to that of a high court judge and facilities should be provided on par. The commission also specifically mentioned that they intended to buy a Toyota Innova Crysta (Zx) 7S model.
On June 1, 2020, the Under Secretary to the Rural Development and Panchayat Raj department issued an order approving the purchase of a vehicle costing not more than Rs 22 lakh. When contacted, State Election Commissioner B Basavaraju said they were using an old car so far. “Now that elections are coming, we need a new vehicle as we have to travel across the state,’’ he reasoned.