Karnataka ULB polls: As COVID-19 cases rise, SEC restricts campaigning

In the midst of a pandemic expanding its tentacles further, parts of the State will be facing another election on April 27, close on the heels of the byelections to a Lok Sabha and two Legislative Assembly seats.

Caught between a High Court order to hold elections and a demand for cancellation of polls from a section in political leaders, the State Election Commission (SEC) is in a fix. The rapid surge of COVID-19 cases has forced the commission to direct the candidates to restrict their campaigning to door-to-door visits with less than five persons.

Elections to as many as 10 urban local bodies (ULBs) in Ballari, Bengaluru Rural, Hassan, Chickballapur, Shivamogga, Ramanagaram, Bhadravathi, Madikeri, and Bidar districts are scheduled on April 27. Districts such as Chickballapur, Bidar, Ballari, and Hassan have a high active caseload already. As the elections heated up with local politicians campaigning and crowds swelling, an anxious SEC on Monday restricted campaigning.

‘Put them off’

Early last week, in light of COVID-19 spreading in Bidar, Janata Dal (S) Legislative Party deputy leader Bandeppa Kashempur had urged that the elections be put off. The Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) this week demanded the same.

However, sources in the SEC defended the elections to ULBs, stating that it was a High Court-mandated election that they had to hold. “Elections are being held to ULBs in these districts after a gap of over two years. The elections had been stalled because of legal wrangles over reservation,” a source told The Hindu.

A senior official said, “If we put off the elections, there is a fear of facing the wrath of the court. Before deciding to go ahead with the schedule, we consulted legal experts on the implications of putting off the elections after the notification was issued.”

The official said that the Election Commission was still holding Assembly elections in West Bengal. “If the second wave had hit before the notification of the schedule, the commission would not have announced the dates.”

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Printable version | May 7, 2021 8:01:43 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/karnataka/karnataka-ulb-polls-as-covid-19-cases-rise-sec-restricts-campaigning/article34371208.ece

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