The Gujarat poll panel postponed the local body elections soon after the state government promulgated an ordinance to put off the process, citing apprehension that voters would not be “allowed to vote freely and fairly” — a move largely seen as provoked by the ongoing Patidar agitation for quota.
The State Election Commission issued a notification in this regard after Governor O P Kohli signed the ordinance Saturday night. As per the notification issued by secretary in the poll panel Mahesh Joshi, the decision to hold the elections to six municipal corporations, 56 municipalities, 230 taluka panchayats and 31 district panchayats would be taken within three months after examining the situation.
“Keeping in mind the necessity to hold elections in free, fair and peaceful environment, the commission has evaluated the present law and order situation across the state. After such evaluation, we have decided not to hold elections at present,” the release stated.
The government’s move to delay the elections, however, did not go down well with the Opposition Congress, which said it would challenge the decision in the High Court, if necessary.
Leader of Opposition in the Assembly Shankersinh Vaghela and Gujarat Congress president Bharatsinh Solanki held a joint press conference during which they claimed BJP was afraid of a massive loss in the elections.
Vaghela said in most BJP-dominated areas, the party was facing boycott and that the ordinance to delay the elections was only to preempt any damage to the saffron outfit in the Bihar polls. “I am alleging that the decision (to promulgate ordinance) has been got done by the PMO from the CMO,” he said and demanded resignation of Chief Minister Anandiben Patel and dissolution of the government.
The State Election Commission acted like a “puppet in the hands of the state government” by delaying the elections immediately after promulgation of the ordinance, he said Solanki said Congress would leave no stone unturned to ensure that elections were held in time. “If necessary, we will approach the (Gujarat) High Court,” he said.
The elections are due in October-November.