As Kerala is getting ready for civic and local body elections, state election commissioner V Bhaskaran has sent a letter to the state government on Wednesday to make necessary amendments in the state panchayati raj act to facilitate proxy voting or postal ballot facility for Covid-19 infected voters and others in quarantine.
The state is planning to hold civic body polls in October, considered to be the semi-final before the assembly elections due in April next year. In the letter Bhaskaran said the government can bring amendments in the act to facilitate either proxy voting—where a voter can delegate a family member or anyone else– to cast a vote on his behalf or grant postal ballot facility to those infected by the disease and those under quarantine.
The poll officer’s letter says it will be unfair to keep the infected and the quarantined out of the poll process. He also cited practice of reverse quarantining of people above 65 years of age to stress on the need for the medication to ensure this section is not prevented from exercising their right to vote.
The poll commissioner also said the state health department had no objection to the poll if they were held observing the Covid-19 protocols.
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“The state health department told us that if the polls are conducted meeting the Covid-19 protocol it has no problem. Polling hours will have to be extended and the additional fund is needed for sanitization of booths and other processes,” he said adding training of returning officers will begin soon.
The poll officer has also said that the election schedule will be announced after consulting all political parties.
While the CPI (M) welcomed the move, Congress said it will oppose it.
“How can he send a letter without consulting opposition parties? We are against it as it will defeat the very purpose of the election,” said opposition leader Ramesh Chennithala.
But CPI(M) leader A Anananthan said the party will support any move to include infected people in the poll process.
In the last major poll in the state, the general election in 2019, the ruling Left Democratic Party (LDF) suffered a humiliating defeat losing 19 out of the 20 Lok Sabha seats.
The state government’s alleged mishandling of the emotional Sabarimala issue was cited as the major reason for the drubbing. The lead party in the LDF, CPI(M), was later forced to dilute its position on the dispute surrounding customs of the hill temple vis-a-viz a Supreme Court order.
CPM now feels that the government’s response to the Covid-19 situation will fetch it dividends at the hustings but the opposition Congress says the ruling front will suffer due to the sensational gold smuggling case.
Meanwhile, the state’s Coved-19 tally crossed 50,000-mark on Wednesday with 2,333 fresh cases—the highest single-day count since the outbreak— taking the overall count to 50,176. The number of active cases is much lower at 17,382 as 32,611 patients have been cured of the disease. With seven more deaths recorded in the last 24 hours, the death toll has reached 183.
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