Panaji, July 25
The Goa government's nod to hold elections to 11 municipal bodies on October 18, at a time when the state administration is battling to keep in check the sustained spike in Covid-19 cases, has attracted ire from the Opposition.
With nearly 30 persons dying following infection by the deadly virus and nearly 1,500 active cases reported in the country's smallest state, the Opposition has now accused the ruling BJP-led coalition government of being affected by "election fever" in the times of a pandemic.
The controversy erupted after State Election Commissioner R.K. Srivastava proposed October 18 as a date for holding of elections to 11 municipal councils in the state, which the Chief Minister Pramod Sawant-led government has accepted.
According to Srivastava, the Commission had to recommend a date to the government before the expiry of the five-year tenure of the elected council of the 11 municipal councils, in sync with the law.
"We had proposed October 18 as the date for holding elections to 11 municipal councils. The government has approved and agreed to that date. Elections have to be held 15 days before expiry of their tenure by law," Srivastava said.
The State Election Commissioner also said, that in its proposal to the government, it had also included a rider related to the pandemic.
"We hope the pandemic situation improves by then. If it does not normalise, then the Commission will take a call at an appropriate stage (vis-a-vis cancellation of polls)," Srivastava said.
This is not the first time that the medical emergency triggered by the Covid-19 pandemic, has threatened to disrupt poll schedules in Goa. The state government was forced to cancel the Zilla Panchayat polls in March, after the central government ordered the Janata Curfew across the country in its bid to arrest the spread of viral infection.
The Opposition however has criticised the state government of trying to "impose" an election in a state, whose people are busy battling the pandemic.
"This government is suffering from election fever. All they think about are elections and not the suffering of the people due to the Covid-19 pandemic," opposition party Goa Forward president and former Deputy Chief Minister Vijai Sardesai said.
"Even the last Zilla Panchayat elections which the ruling party was keen to hold in March, just as the pandemic was starting, had to be cancelled by the government after the intervention of the High Court," the Opposition MLA also said.