Election Commission struggles over Karanataka poll date

February 27th, 2008 - 11:07 pm ICT by admin  

(Lead, Changing dateline)

Bangalore/New Delhi, Feb 27 (IANS) The Election Commission is facing contradictory demands from the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and the Congress on the timing of polls to the Karnataka assembly, due before May 28 when six months of President’s rule expires. The BJP wants the ballot before May 28 but the Congress prefers it after the poll panel completes re-drawing the constituencies as per the recommendation of the Delimitation Commission headed by retired Supreme Court Judge Kuldip Singh.

Both parties are stepping up pressure on the Election Commission amid speculation that it was inclined to go for elections by May 28.

Chief Election Commissioner N. Gopalaswamy and Election Commissioners S.Y. Quraishi and Navin Chawla are expected to visit Bangalore March 4 to discuss the issue with state election officials.

Karnataka Chief Electoral Officer R. Ramasheshan said he was out of Bangalore and could comment only when he returns to the state capital Thursday.

Congress leaders from Karnataka led by state unit president Mallikharjun Kharge were in New Delhi Wednesday to impress on the central leaders about the problems of holding elections before May 28.

“May or April is not the issue. Our main contention is that anomalies in the voters list should be set right. Without doing so, any election will be a farce,” state Congress spokesperson V.S. Ugrappa said from New Delhi.

Asked whether the Congress team would meet the chief election commissioner, Ugrappa said: “We have no such plans. We came Delhi to discuss party matters with our central leaders.”

BJP vice president M. Venkaiah Naidu said in Bangalore Wednesday that his party had impressed on the Election Commission that the elections should be held before the expiry of President’s rule.

“The BJP will resist legally and politically any move to put off the polls,” he said.

Meanwhile, the Janata Dal-Secular (JD-S) led by former prime minister H.D. Deve Gowda, the third major political force in Karnataka, is organising a series of party meetings expecting polls to be held in May.

Deve Gowda, who was in New Delhi Tuesday to attend parliament, returned to Bangalore in the evening and told his party workers that he expected elections in May and they should get ready for it.

The final draft of voters list will be out March 10. Nearly four million bogus voters were found in the list earlier prepared by the state officials, who were taken to task by the Election Commission.

The 224-member state assembly was dissolved Nov 28 after the BJP’s B.S. Yeddyurappa ministry collapsed Nov 19 following the withdrawal of support by JD-S. The state has been under President’s rule since then.

The central government will need parliament’s approval to extend President’s rule.

The Congress wants the polls to be held according to the re-drawn constituencies as it expects to benefit from the increase in the number of seats reserved for Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes.

Scheduled Castes seats have gone up from 24 to 36 and those for Scheduled Tribes from 13 to 15. The re-carving of constituencies does not alter the total strength of the assembly, which remains at 224 besides a member nominated by the governor.

Election Commission sources said the delimitation of constituencies in Karnataka was nearing completion.

Poll panel sources said in another four months the delimitation exercise may be completed all over the country.

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