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POLL PLOT

THE ISSUE of holding Urban Local Bodies? polls has put the State Government in a Catch?22 situation. While the Samajwadi Party cadre wants the election to be held after the Vidhan Sabha polls, the Allahabad High Court had directed the State Government to complete the process by May. After the deadline set by the court expired, a contempt petition seeking action against the government was filed.
None | By Rajesh Kumar Singh
PUBLISHED ON JUL 30, 2006 12:02 AM IST

To hold or not hold the Urban Local Bodies’ polls is the question dogging the govt.

THE ISSUE of holding Urban Local Bodies’ polls has put the State Government in a Catch–22 situation. While the Samajwadi Party cadre wants the election to be held after the Vidhan Sabha polls, the Allahabad High Court had directed the State Government to complete the process by May. After the deadline set by the court expired, a contempt petition seeking action against the government was filed.

But why is the government trying to evade the polls?

According to experts, Vidhan Sabha elections are virtually knocking at the door, and a poor performance in civic bodies’ polls will send out a wrong signal to the voters. At the same time, the Samajwadi Party plans to avoid rebellion among its cadre. “There are several ticket-seekers and we can satisfy only a few,” said a senior SP leader.

The Opposition is also soft-pedaling the issue even though the Congress, the BJP and the BSP have started to gear up its cadre for the civic polls. UPCC president Salman Khurshid has termed the local bodies’ elections as the semi-final in the run up to Vidhan Sabha elections. BJP leader Kalyan Singh and BSP supremo Mayawati have also called upon party workers to prepare for the civic polls.

The leaders might be making the right noises to keep the cadre on their toes, but at the heart of hearts they prefer the ‘semi-final’ after the ‘final’. At least their actions are showing that. So, instead of naming candidates for local bodies’ elections the parties are busy finalising candidates for the Vidhan Sabha polls. “Poor performance in the local bodies’ elections will demoralise the workers,” a BJP leader said.

But the stakes are high for the ruling Samajwadi Party. The party wants to give impression that there is no anti-incumbency factor at work.

And to ensure that it is delaying the poll.  Though the tenure of the previous local bodies expired in November last, the government did not announce dates for the polls. Instead, it passed a bill in the Vidhan Sabha for the appointment of administrators to manage affairs of Nagar Nigams, Nagar Panchayats and Nagar Palika Parishads.

Though the government has the option to continue with the elected bodies till the election process was completed, it reposed more faith in the district magistrates.

The decision was not merely administrative but evidently political, as rival political parties controlled most of the Urban Local Bodies.

The Article 243 of the Constitution states that Local Bodies’ elections should be held every five years. But the ambiguity of the UP Nagar Palika Act, 1916, and the UP Nagar Nigam Act, 1959, on the time limit within which the elections should be held came in handy for the government.Casual approach of the government towards Urban Local Bodies’ polls and some controversial decisions came in the way of completing the process.

The government carried out delimitation of wards according to the 1991 Census, but the Act clearly states that delimitation should be done in conformity with the latest Census (in this case 2001). The delimitation exercise was challenged in the court and it had to be done afresh.

The reservation of post of mayors in Nagar Nigams and chairpersons in Nagar Panchayats was again challenged. The petitioners submitted that single posts could not be reserved, but the court overruled the petition and asked the government to go ahead. But the reservation provision was not mentioned in the Act and only a few days back the government passed an ordinance for reservation of mayors and chairpersons’ posts.

In reply to the contempt petition on overshooting the May deadline for holding the polls, the government told the Allahabad High Court that the notification would be issued on August 21 and the entire process would end by August 28.

Since then, the government is maintaining silence on the issue. But completing the poll process is easier said than done. Now, the State Election Commission has urged the government to amend poll dates and complete the process by September 22. The government is yet to reply to the plea.

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