Maharashtra State Election Commission postponed the by-elections to the vacant posts in 5 Zilla Parishads and 33 Panchayat Samitis in the state on Friday due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, the rising threat due the 'highly infectious' Delta Plus variant, and the impending third wave of COVID-19, said State Election Commissioner UPS Madan.
Madan said polling was to be held on July 19, 2021, for the by-elections in 70 constituencies in 5 Zilla Parishads of Dhule, Nandurbar, Akola, Washim and Nagpur and 130 constituencies in 33 Panchayat Samitis. However, on July 7, 2021, the Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray-led government had requested the State Election Commission to postpone the by-elections against the backdrop of COVID-19, he added.
In view of the Supreme Court order dated July 6, 2021, and the request of the State Government, the State Election Commission had sought more information from the State Government regarding COVID-19 and a detailed report from the District Collectors, said the State Election Commissioner. Accordingly, the commission has postponed the election to the stage it is today. Therefore, the code of conduct applicable for these by-elections has also been relaxed from today. Once the situation in COVID-19 improves, the State Election Commission will announce the completion of the remaining stages of the by-elections, he added.
Earlier, Maharashtra Chief Secretary Sitaram Kunte had sent a letter to the State Election Commission with a plea to postpone the by-elections to the local bodies. The decision was taken after strong objections were raised by the ruling partners at the state cabinet chaired by Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray.
The cabinet was unanimous that, in the present circumstances, elections should not be held, especially when the monsoon session of the state legislature has been curtailed and restrictions have been imposed on the annual Pandharpur Wari because of the increase in cases. Besides, ministers pointed out that due to the strict restrictions, none of the political party leaders would be able to hold poll rallies.