The Telangana State Election Commission (SEC) on Thursday made it clear that it will go ahead with the conduct of elections to two municipal corporations and five municipalities on April 30. State Election Commissioner C Partha Sarathi said the elections would be held as per the schedule already announced but with strict adherence to all COVID-19 regulations.
However, the decision is raising concerns in the wake of a rapid surge in new COVID-19 cases in the state.
Congress leader and former minister Mohammed Ali Shabbir had also approached the Telangana High Court seeking postponement of polls in view of the ongoing second wave of COVID-19. The court, however, declined to pass any orders and advised him to move the State Election Commission (SEC).
The SEC after talks with the state government officials decided to go ahead with the polls. It, however, issued some new guidelines to ensure that all COVID-19 safety rules are followed during the election campaign.
As the state government has imposed night curfew from 9 pm to 5 am, the SEC order says that there should be no campaign from 7 pm till 8 am. The poll panel has also curtailed the campaign period. The campaign will come to an end 72 hours before the commencement of polling as against the usual silence period of 48 hours. The campaign in the urban local bodies going to polls on April 30 will end at 5 pm on April 27.
The SEC on April 15 issued notification for elections to Greater Warangal Municipal Corporation, Khammam Municipal Corporation, Atchampet, Siddipet, Nakrekal, Jadcherla and Kothur municipalities. A total of 11.26 lakh voters are eligible to cast their votes in 248 wards of these urban local bodies.
Greater Warangal Municipal Corporation has 66 wards while Khammam Municipal Corporation has 60 wards. Among five municipalities, Siddipet is the largest with 43 wards while Kothur is smallest with only 12 wards.
While the Telangana Rashtra Samithi (TRS) and Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) have released their first list of candidates for the respective divisions and wards in different ULBs, the Congress party is urging the SEC to postpone the Municipal elections as they fear that this would trigger the further spread of the coronavirus. Senior Congress leader Dasoju Sravan Kumar said that it is "a crime to conduct elections" on one hand, while announcing a curfew on the other hand.
(With inputs from IANS)