The Gujarat Government Saturday issued an ordinance putting off local bodies elections, citing apprehension that voters would not be “allowed to vote freely and fairly”, a move that is largely seen as provoked by the on-going Patidar agitation for quota.
The ordinance, issued by Governor O P Kohli, calls for appointing administrators in local bodies on the ground that, “it is not possible to hold elections and constitute body in corporations, panchayats and nagarpalika in unforeseen circumstances like natural calamity, riots, disturbance on account of voters not being allowed to vote freely and fairly,” the ordinance stated, according to a government official.
C J Gothi, parliamentary secretary, said that as per the Gujarat Panchayat Act, elections can be postponed only if there is a natural calamity, while the Municipalities Act, 1963 and the Bombay Provincial Municipal Corporation (BPMC) Act provide for some more situations where an election can be postponed beyond the local body’s term, such as communal disturbances and riots. “We have amended all the three acts and now we have uniform provisions for not holding the elections in all the three acts,” he said.
Incidentally, in a press release on Saturday, the state Election Commission Secretary Mahesh Joshi said that the commission had done thorough assessment of the law and order situation and decided to postpone the local body elections, which should be held in free and fair atmosphere. The release added that the commission will again do the assessment of the law and order situation in the state and hold elections within three months.
The new ordinance amended section 79 of BPMC, section 8(A) of Municipalities act and section 257 of Panchayat act, under which the state government has powers to delay the local body polls for unspecified time. The state government also can take the decision to delay the polls if there is an apprehension that the voters will not be able to use the franchise freely and fairly. This ordinance is the second amendment in Gujarat Local Authorities Act (amendment) 2009. Earlier, the same act was amended to include the clause of disqualification of councillors if they did not vote.
The local body polls were expected to be held in October. However, the Supreme Court recently stayed the elections to municipalities and municipal corporations, following a plea by advocate Anirudh Sharma.
With PTI inputs