BENGALURU: To avoid the risk of spreading Covid-19, the Karnataka State Election Commission has decided to defer the Gram Panchayat (GP) elections in Karnataka. The tenure of members in 5,800 of 6,025 panchayats in the state will end between June and August 2020. Considering the current situation as an “exceptional circumstance,” the commission took the decision to temporarily postpone the elections.
A decision when the elections will be held will be taken after reviewing the situation, the commission stated. Prior to taking the decision on postponing the polls, the Commission had sought reports from Deputy Commissioners on the situation in the districts. Based on the reports from the DCs, the commission came to the conclusion that officials at the district level are deployed in taking measures to fight the Covid-19 pandemic and they may find it difficult to allocate sufficient staff, make transportation arrangements for elections and also maintain law and order too.
The Commission also stated that maintaining social distancing which is required to prevent spreading of the virus may be difficult during the elections as number of people, including members of political parties, voters and even officials have to gather together during preparation of electoral rolls, polling and during counting of votes. The Union Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) has issued guidelines to all states to take several measures including maintaining social distance and avoid gathering of a large number of people at one place to prevent the spread of the virus.
Meanwhile, the opposition Congress had accused the state government of planning to nominate members to the GPs after the tenure of current members ended. Opposition parties have demanded that the government hold elections or extended the tenure of current members, and have also warned of political and as well as legal protests against the government, if it nominated members to the GPs.
The election commission is mandated by law to hold elections before the tenure of members ends and had already swung into action and issued directions to district administration to begun preparations of electoral rolls. However, all activities ground to a halt due to the lockdown.