Local body polls possible only after Diwali: Guj govt

Gandhinagar: Even as the Gujarat government’s ordinace to delay the local bodies polls was today quashed by the High Court, the state clarified that these elections could only be held after Diwali, as it would be difficult to conduct them during the festival due to lack of manpower.

In a setback to the Gujarat government, the High Court today quashed an ordinance issued by it to pave the way to delay local bodies polls, terming it as “unconstitutional”, and directed the State Election Commission (SEC) to conduct the polls before the expiry of their terms.

Gujarat Minister Nitin Patel said the government and the ruling BJP were ready for elections, provided they are held only after Diwali vacation in mid-November.

He clarified that it would be very difficult for the state administration to hold the elections if the court order was followed.

“The state government as well as BJP are ready for the elections. But, as per the high court order, we have to hold the polls during this festive season of Diwali, which will be celebrated on November 11. The entire week after Diwali is a vacation time in Gujarat,” Patel told reporters here today.

According to him, even if the SEC issues a notification declaring elections today, it would take at least 20 days to complete the entire process.

“The procedure would include filing of nominations by candidates, scrutiny, withdrawal of forms, polling, counting, etc. Thus, we will have no other option but to hold the polls during Diwali, when many officials may have booked tours with their families,” Patel, who holds the Health portfolio among others, said.

“Since we are dependent on the government staff, such as teachers and policemen, it would be difficult for the government to acquire staff for elections on such a large scale. Since it’s vacation time, we fear that the voter turnout will also remain low. Thus, the real purpose of holding the polls will not be fulfilled,” Patel claimed.