ITANAGAR, Nov 13: The state’s opposition parties on Friday condemned the State Election Commission (SEC) for declaring the local body elections on 22 December, saying that the holding of elections during the Covid-19 pandemic would put the state’s people under great risk.
The SEC on Thursday announced the date for the simultaneous PRI and municipal elections in the state. Two days earlier, representatives of all the political parties had met the state election commissioner, requesting deferment of the elections, but their plea went unanswered.
Addressing reporters at the press club here on Friday afternoon, state Congress party spokesperson Toko Mina said, “Why is the SEC so adamant on conducting the elections now when it did not for the past two-and-a-half years? When you had time and when the high court had also directed conducting the elections, why didn’t you conduct it then? You went ahead and disobeyed the constitutional mandate and disregarded the high court order. And now, when the situation is so vulnerable, you want to conduct the elections.”
Speaking of the growing number of active Covid-19 cases in the state and the deaths
related to it, the Congress spokesperson said Arunachal is in a “danger zone” now and the election might trigger Covid-19 waves in the interior areas.
Expressing concern over how recently many police personnel from the state were infected with Covid-19 after being deployed during the recent Bihar election, she said, “Even Mizoram, which did not have Covid-19 fatality, registered 141 Covid-19 cases in a single day after the election, which forced the Mizoram government to impose a statewide lockdown.”
Further, stating that the move would affect the state’s Christian community as for them the whole month of December is considered a month of celebration leading up to Christmas, she demanded that the elections be conducted during the monsoon.
People’s Party of Arunachal (PPA) working president Kahfa Bengia claimed that the SEC was undermining the views of the political parties and was trying to impose another lockdown-like situation by conducting the elections.
He also requested the SEC to conduct the elections after March next year.
Speaking of the election process, which will see many officials going to interior places to conduct the elections, Bengia expressed fear that the virus might reach all the remote places and prove fatal for many.
“Will you guarantee that no one will be infected with the virus? And if there is fatality, will you take the responsibility?” he questioned.
Endorsing their opinions, Jarjum Ete of the Janata Dal (S) said, “We want the commission to tell us why the election cannot be deferred for just three-four months. What loss would you face if the elections wait for a few more months?”
Ete also demanded a white paper on the utilization of centrally-sponsored schemes for rural and urban development during the time the PRI and municipal elections were not conducted.
“Also, the decision to move for the 6th schedule of the Indian constitution, how much has it progressed? Please share the blueprint. Even if it is not working out, we would like to know how the whole process of conducting the local body elections in the 73rd and the 74th amendment act is going to be realized. We would like a statement on this from the ruling party,” she said.
The JD (S) spokesperson held that the elections should not be conducted till a vaccine for Covid-19 is out, “or at least till the state is declared to be Covid-19-free.”
AAPSU urges SEC to reconsider decision on polls
Expressing strong reservation over the decision of the SEC to hold the municipal and panchayat elections on 22 December, the All Arunachal Pradesh Students’ Union (AAPSU) said the commission should reconsider its decision to hold the polls, in view of the Covid-19 pandemic.
“We are very much surprised at the adamancy of the SEC on conducting the elections despite unanimous opinion by all political parties and stakeholders to defer the elections till the time is more conducive,” the AAPSU said, and added that the opinion of the health department should have been taken into cognizance. It said the health department “has clearly opined for postponement of simultaneous elections till passing of winter, rather than taking the unfathomable risk.”
Stating that Arunachal is already reeling under “weak health infrastructure” and shortage of manpower, the union said: “Does the SEC guarantee the safety of the people during the entire period of the election process?”
It said that “any spurt of Covid-19 cases during the said election process, including possible casualties in the rural areas of the state which are till now largely unaffected by the pandemic, shall be the sole responsibility of the SEC.”