Panchayat polls on hold, a Council crisis in sight
The delay in panchayat polls in the state due to the deadly second wave of coronavirus has cast its shadow on the election of new members from 24 “local authorities’’ constituencies in the state’s 75-member Legislative Council whose term is set to end on July 17.
In all likelihood, the election for the 24 Council seats will have be deferred. Reason: the electoral college to elect the new MLCs would cease to exist after June 15 when term of panchayat bodies comes to an end.
Sources said the state election department has already sent a report to the Election Commission of India (ECI), which will take a final decision on the matter.
“At least two weeks’ time is required for preparations before the polls are announced. But chances are dim because 97% of the voters to elect MLCs from ‘local authorities’ constituencies will be non-existent from June 15. One cannot have election without voters. Hence, the election will have to be deferred,” said a senior official in the state election department.
MLCs from “local authorities” constituencies are elected by ward members of all the three panchayati raj institutions, the gram panchayat, district boards and urban local bodies. The elected members of panchayati raj institutions ( PRIs) constitute 97% of the electoral college to elect MLCs from 24 “local authorities” constituencies. Given the scenario, all MLCs from this constituency would cease to be legislators from July 18 onwards, after the expiry of their six-year term.
At preset, there are 19 MLCs now in the Council from “local authorities” constituency. Five seats fell vacant when two MLCs died while three were elected MLAs in the 2020 Assembly polls.
The current strength of the Legislative Council is 69, with five vacancies from “local authorities” constituency and one from the Legislative Assembly quota. Once 19 more seats fall vacant on July 18, the strength would come down to 50.
On panchayat polls, which were to begin in the state in mid-March, the state poll panel is yet to take a decision. There is speculation that the government would be taking over the charge of PRIs and run it through administrators after the expiry of the term of current panchayat bodies on June 15.
Bihar’s chief electoral officer (CEO) H R Srinivasa said they had sent a detailed report about the term of sitting MLCs from local authorities constituency and other aspects of holding the election to ECI.
The contagion effect
Fate uncertain for 24 seats
Bihar’s Legislative Council has a total of 75 seats, of which 24 are from ‘local authorities’ constituencies. The six-year term for these 24 MLCs ends on July 17.
Elected members of panchayati raj institutions (PRIs) — the gram panchayat, district boards and urban local bodies — constitute 97% of the electoral college for these 24 seats.
Problem at hand
Term of current gram panchayat, district boards and urban local bodies ends on June 15 and so there won’t be any voters for the 24 seats in question, unless their term is extended.