BJP, Cong and JD(S) set for another electoral battle as EC notifies panchayat polls
The Election Commission on Monday notified polls for 5,762 gram panchayats across 30 districts of Karnataka that will pit the ruling BJP and the opposition Congress and JD(S) against each other.
Though the polls are held without using party symbols, control of gram panchayats is seen by political parties as building blocks to consolidate their power.
The polls were due in May but the state government had requested the EC to postpone it for six months saying that Covid-19 cases which were then surging would hamper the smooth conduct of the poll process. The Congress through its legislative council member K C Kondaiah had approached the Karnataka High Court seeking directions to hold the polls at the earliest. On November 13, the high court had asked the EC to notify the polls within three weeks.
Chief Minister B S Yediyurappa welcomed the EC’s notification for the panchayat polls. “Gram Panchayat polls are as important as assembly and Lok Sabha polls to strengthen the party at grassroots level. Though candidates will contest without party symbols, voters know who will identify with which party,” he told media persons.
He also brushed aside any chances of the panchayat polls further delaying the planned cabinet expansion “No. I don’t see any correlation (between the polls and cabinet expansion,” he said.
State BJP President Nalin Kumar Kateel too said that for BJP the local body polls were very important as it would ‘nurture the next generation of BJP leaders.’ Last week, Kateel had said that the party was aiming to win at least 80% of the seats in the polls.
The Congress too is going all out to win a majority of the seats in the gram panchayat polls. A total of 92,121 candidates will be elected in the 5,762 panchayats. The KPCC is holding a day-long meeting on Monday to analyze the reason for the recent defeat in the Sira and RR Nagar by-polls as well as to draw up a strategy to counter the BJP in the gram panchayat polls. In the 2016 local body polls Congress-backed candidates had won the majority of the seats.
KPCC President D K Shivakumar on Friday had said that the party was fully geared to take on the BJP and win the bulk of the gram panchayat seats. The regional Janata Dal (Secular) which has its pockets of strength especially in Southern Karnataka has also been drawing up its battle plans with its state president and former chief minister H D Kumaraswamy meeting district unit chiefs to identify suitable candidates and draw up a strategy.
Senior political analyst Neelakant said that the gram panchayat polls indicate the public mood, especially in rural areas. “It is important for all the three parties. For BJP to strengthen its hold specially in rural areas as it is still seen as an urban party. Its performance in the Old Mysuru region will be watched closely to see whether it has made an inroads there. For the Congress victory is important if it has to bounce back in the next assembly polls and for JD(S) it is an existential question.”
The EC has said that the polls will be held in two phases with voting on December 22 and 27 while the results will be declared on December 30. With polls being notified the model code of conduct has come into force with immediate effect in the state.
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