Citing Covid-19 as one of the reasons, the State Election Commission (SEC) in Gujarat has postponed the local body elections, scheduled to be held in November, by three months.
The SEC stated that polls to six municipal corporations — Ahmedabad, Rajkot, Surat, Vadodara, Bhavnagar and Jamnagar, 55 municipalties, 31 district panchayats and 231 taluka panchayats were scheduled to be held in November 2020. The terms of all the municipal corporations end on Decem-ber 13, 2020, while the terms of rest of the local bodies scheduled for polls also end in December.
“Considering the scale of local body elections and the condition of Covid pandemic, a notification has been issued postponing the polls by three months. The situation will be reviewed after three months and a decision for the same will be arrived at,” an official statement from State Election Commissioner Sanjay Prasad stated here on Monday.
The SEC declined to hold the elections during the same month when the Election Commission of India will be holding polls on eight vacant assembly seats in Gujarat, on November 3.
The SEC, in a detailed notification, pointed out that 4.04 crore voters will be involved in electing 8,402 members and this will involve setting up of 47,400 polling booths. In the six municipal corporations, there are 144 wards where 576 members will be elected by 1.11 crore voters who will cast their votes at 11,581 polling booths. Similarly in 55 municipalities, 2,068 members will be elected by 49.79 lakh voters through 4,498 polling booths.
The SEC also stated that it has completed preparations, including training of officials and delimitation exercise. The Commission also said the local body polls will also involve 2.8 lakh polling staff, 1 lakh security personnel, 14,000 drivers, cleaners and peons, three lakh election agents. This, according to the Commission, will lead to “movement of people” and “crowding or gathering” for long periods.
Stating that it has been keeping a “constant eye” on the pandemic situation in Gujarat, the Commission pointed out that from 74 Covid positive cases and six deaths in March 2020, the state recorded a total of 1,50,415 cases and 3,560 deaths as on October 10, 2020. “The rising infection figures are a matter of concern,” the notification stated.
The Commission listed out a gist of 20-odd requests it received from different organisations and individuals for postponing the polls. The first request that the Commission cited was of Congress MLA Gyasuddin Sheikh who pointed out that the local body polls will lead to a rise in Covid infections. Gyasuddin’s writ petition before the Gujarat High Court was also mentioned.
In an official release, the Congress MLA stated that the SEC decision to postpone the polls mentions to his petition on the same matter in HC that will come up for hearing on October 16. In another request, Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) gave similar reasons demanding the postponement of polls.
Among various state government employees and teachers associations that have written to the Commission demanding the postponement, the Gujarat State Primary Teachers’ Association cited the examples of local body elections being postponed in Goa and Andhra Pradesh and the observations of the Supreme Court on the issue, while seeking postponement of polls for three months in Gujarat.
A request for postponement from Gujarat state City Primary Teachers Sangh stated that teachers have been deployed for contact tracing, door-to-door surveys related to Covid and over the past six months, over 1,000 primary teachers were infected in various cities of the state. The Sangh said that the polls will lead to rapid spread in infections.
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