K’taka gears up for panchayat polls in Dec, EVMs to be used in Bidar (Lead)

Bengaluru, Nov 30 (IANS) The Karnataka State Election Commission (KSEC) on Monday announced the dates for gram panchayat elections for 5,762 panchayats in two phases.Now after the Assembly, Lok Sabha and the recent by-polls, the political parties in Karnataka are gearing up for the gram panchayat elections – the largest in terms of the number of seats and candidates contesting. Gram Panchayat elections are being held for 92,121 seats in 35,884 constituencies spread across 5,762 gram panchayats in Karnataka.The polls are not fought on party symbols but play a vital role in spreading parties’ strength at the grassroots level. This is also an election through which emerging leaders at the village level can come up.Addressing a virtual press conference, KSEC commissioner B. Basavaraju said elections would be held on December 22 and December 27 across the state. “Counting for both the phases will be held on December 30 and polling will be held between 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. in both phases,” he added.For the first time these elections are being held amid the pandemic and all precautionary measures would be taken with the Model Code of Conduct coming in force from Monday onwards across the state.”We had earlier issued Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) for the election, according to which more than five people cannot go for campaigning. Masks are mandatory and social distancing must be maintained. Besides, people who tested Covid positive will be allowed to vote in the last hour,” he said.He said the Commission was for the first time using electronic voting machines (EVMs) in Bidar district while the remaining panchayats would use ballots.In Karnataka, there are more than 6,004 gram panchayats, of which 5,762 will go to the polls in these two phases. Of the remaining 242 gram panchayats, the terms of 162 would end after December and nearly 74 gram panchayats either merged fully (33) or partially (44) with urban local bodies. Besides this six gram panchayats have cases pending before the court, said the note released by the KSEC.The SEC Commissioner said the first phase of elections would be held on December 22 for 113 taluks (2,930 panchayats) while the second phase would be conducted for the remaining 113 taluks (2,832 panchayats).The total number of voters is 2.96 crore, of which 1.49 crore are male, 1.47 crore are female and 1,048 are others, the note added. The notification for the elections would be issued by the respective DCs on December 7 and December 11 for the first and second phases, respectively.Earlier, the Karnataka government had requested the SEC to postpone the elections in view of the Covid-19 pandemic.But the SEC said it would go ahead with the polls as per schedule with Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs).Questioning the motive of the Karnataka government, the Opposition Congress approached the High Court demanding the gram panchayat elections to be held as per schedule.After hearing the matter on November 12, a division bench of Chief Justice Abhay Shreeniwas Oka and Justice Ashok S. Kinagi pronounced the judgement, saying the state had no say in the decision of the SEC.”Within three weeks of this judgment, the SEC should finalise the schedule for the elections,” the bench had ruled.–IANSnbh/khz/bg

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