With nine Municipal Corporations and 117 Municipal Councils completing five-year term between March 8 and April 26, and due for elections between September 8 and October 26, the government is yet to decide whether to go for elections or postpone them by bringing an ordinance.
Amid Covid-19 spread, and with government not being able to carry out development works, the government is dithering over making a decision. While several ministers are in favour of conducting the elections citing Singapore case in point where general elections were held amid Covid, Local Bodies Minister Brahm Mohindra, who is the minister concerned for all these Urban Local Bodies (ULBs), is learnt to be against holding these elections.
The ruling Congress had fared badly in urban areas in 2019 Look Sabha elections when Navjot Singh Sidhu was the minister incharge of the department. Chief Minister Amarinder Singh had blamed Sidhu for the poor show saying he had not delivered. Over a year later, the party is not “confident” about holding elections.
As per the Punjab Municipal Act, 1911, elections are to be held within six months of any local body completing its term. Otherwise, the government has to cite a reason and bring an ordinance to announce postponing of elections. The delay in government’s decision is becoming a political issue in the state with the Shiromani Akali Dal demanding election to the local bodies.
Amarinder had set up a Cabinet Sub-Committee on the issue comprising Brahm Mohindra, Food Minister Bharat Bhushan Ashu, Finance Minister Manpreet Singh Badal, Education Minister Vijay Inder Singla, Industries Minister Sunder Sham Arora and Health Minister Balbir Singh Sidhu. The CM had called a meeting of the Sub-Committee on Friday but it was postponed.
The government has already discouraged any political activity in the state amid pandemic. Amarinder had himself written to all political parties asking them to suspend all political activity and prevent spread of the contagion in Punjab. PPCC chief Sunil Jakhar has already announced cancellation of party programmes till further orders. The SAD has also announced postponing of all activity.
A group of partymen feels that as Covid is being expected to peak in mid-August in the state, it is not advisable to have such heightened political activity around then and it is advisable that the elections be put off at least till November. On the other hand, another set of leaders feel the ruling party had a good perception among the masses as the Congress government handled Covid situation better than many other states. The state checked the spread during wheat procurement when 9.5 lakh farmers were out on the roads.
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