The State Election Commission (SEC) on Thursday said that it would postpone the upcoming gram panchayat elections in Karnataka. Fresh elections have been necessiated as the tenure of 5,800 out of the 6,025 gram panchayats in the state, expires between May to August.
However, stating "exceptional circumstances" arising due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the commission has temporarily put off elections. Preparations for the electoral processes, including drawing up the voter-list, had also come to a halt due to the enforcement of lockdown since March.
Questioning the poll body's decision, the Congress party said it would challenge the move in a court of law. Leader of Opposition and former CM Siddaramaiah accused the BJP of once again gaining power through unethical means against public sentiments.
The decision, by State election commission @ceo_karnataka, to postpone Gram Panchayat elections is against the provisions of Karnataka Panchayat Raj Act 1993.@INCKarnataka will question this undemocratic act in the court of law. 1/3#SavePanchayatRaj — Siddaramaiah (@siddaramaiah) May 28, 2020
.@ceo_karnataka is playing to the tune of @BJP4Karnataka which is evident in their decision to postpone Gram Panchayat elections.@BJP4Karnataka is trying gain power through unethical means as public sentiments are against them. 2/3 — Siddaramaiah (@siddaramaiah) May 28, 2020
Earlier this month, Rural Development and Panchayati Raj (RDPR) minister KS Eshwarappa had appealed to the commission to delay election. "Preparations for the elections at the ground level and at the administrative level have been affected by the lockdown. We have decided not to leave the administrative body vacant, instead, we will form administrative councils at every Gram Panchayat under Gram Swaraj and Panchayat Raj Act 1993", he said.
Siddaramaiah had previously called out the SEC for not initiating the electoral process calling it 'unconstitutional' and a violation of the Karnataka Panchayat Raj Act 1993.
State election commission's inaction towards initiating the electoral process, to replace the outgoing Gram panchayat members, is unconstitutional & also violates the provisions of Karnataka Panchayat Raj Act 1993. 1/4#SavePanchayatRaj — Siddaramaiah (@siddaramaiah) May 22, 2020
He had said that the delay in the elections of Gram Panchayat was a threat to the decentralised system of democracy & also goes against the objectives of 73rd Constitutional Amendment Act. He also objected to the formation of administrative committees.