As the Congress' Karnataka unit petitioned the state election commission, urging it to hold gram panchayat elections and accused the government of the conspiring to "saffronise" panchayats, the poll body on Friday wrote to district administrations seeking opinion about conducting it amid COVID-19.
In a letter to Deputy Commissioners of districts, the state election panel has sought opinion regarding holding panchayat polls amid COVID-19 crisis and also as electoral roll needs to be prepared and reservation has to be allocated as per the new amendments.
According to sources, the government has planned to postpone the polls to 6,025 gram panchayats in the state because of the prevailing COVID-19 situation and instead have administrative committees to govern the panchayats, until the polls are held.
The Congress raising apprehension about having such administrative committees, has accused the government of conspiring to have ruling BJP workers as its members.
A delegation comprising Leader of the Opposition Siddaramaiah, KPCC president-designate D K Shivakumar and a host of Congress leaders today submitted a petition to State Election Commissioner B Basavaraju and urged the Commission to hold elections.
"The government was conspiring to postpone panchayat electrons citing COVID-19 as the pretext. It (government) is there by trying to violate the constitution and Panchayat Raj Act," Siddaramaiah told reporters after meeting the Commissioner.
Stating that the term of panchayat is five years from the date of its first meeting, he said, "it cannot be exceeded, government has no powers... by now election process had to start, which has not been done yet."
Siddaramaiah pointed out that the reason for Congress' doubt was due to repeated statements by Rural Development and Panchayat Raj Minister K S Eshwarappa that election will be postponed and in the place of panchayat members a committee will be set up by Deputy Commissioners and members will be nominated to it.
The Minister had also said that a cabinet decision has been taken in this regard after consulting the Advocate General and experts, he noted and said, "they (government) has no right, they cannot give directions to the state election commission, which is an autonomous body."
"We have urged the commission to conduct election... they have said that they will abide by the law and constitution," Siddaramaiah added.
Noting that panchayat elections are held with out party or symbols, D K Shivakumar accused the government of misusing power and said the government was planning to nominate ruling party members to administrative committees, and we wont allow it.
"You (BJP) cannot saffronise this (panchayat system)... if government misuses (election commission and officials) we will tell you in the days to come what we will do," he added.
The Congress has even suggested continuation of sitting panchayat members until the polls are held, instead of appointing administrative committees.
The tenure of 6,025 gram panchayats are to end on various dates from June 2020, and by August 2020 tenure of 5,800 gram panchayats will end, the state election commission's letter said.
(This story has not been edited by Business Standard staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)