Bengaluru: The Election Commission (EC)’s fresh schedule for the by-elections in Karnataka, including a new date when the Model Code of Conduct (MCC) will come into play, has sparked off more anger among Opposition parties. The Karnataka Congress has decided to contest this legally yet again as a delayed poll code leaves an unfair election area.
Citing proceedings in the Supreme Court regarding the pleas filed by 17 disqualified MLAs of the state challenging their disqualification, the EC said that after deliberations it has decided that the nomination process will restart on November 11 as per the new schedule.
The bypolls, earlier scheduled for October 21, will now be held on December 5. These are bypolls in Assembly constituencies where MLAs from the Congress and Janata Dal Secular (JDS) had resigned in an attempt to defect to the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). The apex court will hear the matter next on October 22 and has expressed its inclination to take a decision on the issue.
Their resignations brought down the effective strength of the coalition government, facilitating the BJP to return to power in the southern state. The Karnataka Assembly polls were held in May 2018 and a Congress-JD(S) dispensation that took charge in June 2018 fell in July this year after ruling for 13 months.
The EC has now notified that nominations to these Assembly seats will begin on November 11 instead of September 21 as announced earlier. Besides, it has written to the chief secretary of Karnataka and the state chief electoral officer that the model code of conduct will be suspended with immediate effect and it will come into effect again on November 11.
This has infuriated the two Opposition parties — the Congress and JD(S) — and they are up in arms against the polling body's manner of functioning. State Congress president Dinesh Gundu Rao said the party has lost faith in the EC now.
“First, it should not have cancelled the polls. Now, it announced fresh dates, while adding that the model code of conduct becomes effective on November 11. You mean to say the state government is free to go to all these constituencies (where the by-polls are due) and announce all kinds of programmes and induce voters. There is a huge advantage being given to the ruling government. We will take it up legally, the model code must continue (from now, till elections end on December 11) and there cannot be any violation of that,” Rao told News18, adding there was no level playing field.
JD(S) spokesperson YSV Datta said the EC's notice was extremely unusual that raised questions on the impartiality of the polling authority. “Though we respect constitutional institutions like the EC, the way it announced the calendar of events is astonishing. We feel the EC itself has violated the Constitution and has become a tool in the hands of the Central government... What can we say? A different form of emergency has come into existence. Though people are not feeling it now, they would have to pay its price some day," Datta told News18.
Congress spokesperson VS Ugrappa said the moment a new calendar of events is announced, the model code must kick in immediately.
Earlier, when the EC cancelled the elections, the Congress leadership claimed that this was the first time in the country's history, that the EC had taken such an “arbitrary step” without giving any reason.
The polling body told the Supreme Court on Thursday it would defer the upcoming bypolls in Karnataka till the apex court decided the pleas filed by the MLAs. The EC submitted this after a bench headed by Justice NV Ramana said it would be "better" if the pleas filed by these disqualified MLAs were decided finally as virtually two-third arguments in the matter were already over.