State election body accuses Uttarakhand govt of not taking local body polls ‘seriously’
The Uttarakhand election commission on Wednesday accused the ruling BJP government of not cooperating with its efforts to conduct the local body elections later this month.
State election commissioner (SEC) Subardhan told mediapersons that the state was slipping into a ‘democratic logjam’, with the tenure of 92 municipal bodies in the hill state ending on May 4. “It is constitutionally binding to conduct the polls before the tenure of urban bodies comes to an end. But with just a month to go, neither the delimitation of local urban bodies nor reservation (for women, SC and ST candidates) have been completed,” he said.
The SEC alleged that chief minister Trivendra Singh Rawat and urban development minister Madan Kaushik were not taking the elections “seriously”. “I have been seeking time from the chief minister’s office since July last year. Moreover, I have told the urban development minister that the manner in which the government was going for delimitation of several urban bodies will hamper the poll process,” he said.
Subardhan, whose tenure will end in July, went on to say that conducting elections through VVPAT machines would require funds amounting to Rs 17 crore. “But we did not even get 17 paise,” he added.
The SEC’s accusations against Rawat and Kaushik come as a booster shot for the Congress, which has been accusing the government of rigging the poll process. “It is now proved that the government has been trying to rig the elections. They (government) forcibly included villages in the local bodies, and now it’s evident that the BJP intends to conduct the polls as per its convenience” said party spokesperson Mathura Dutta Joshi.
The opposition party also thanked Subardhan for listening to his “inner voice”.
Last month, the Uttarakhand high court had quashed an official notification for expansion of municipal areas ahead of the local body elections. The court on Wednesday sought a response from the government on the SEC’s petition by April 11.
State urban development minister Madan Kaushik denied the SEC’s allegations, and asserted that the government was in favour of conducting the polls on time. “We have been meeting with the SEC. However, as the commission has now moved court, the government will submit its reply there,” he said.
Trivendra Singh Rawat’s cabinet had approved the expansion of 35 local bodies, including the Dehradun, Haldwani and Roorkee municipal corporations, last June. The decision, seen as a move to give the ruling party an edge in the urban body polls, snowballed into a major political battle between the BJP and Congress.
The decision allowed the full inclusion of 355 villages and partial inclusion of 44 others into urban areas. Several village heads also moved court against the move.
The Congress has accused the government of trying to alter the demography of municipal areas by including select villages that suit the BJP. It further alleged that several OBC and Muslim-dominated rural settlements were excluded from Roorkee to make way for “new entrants”.