Campaigning ends for municipal elections in Telangana

Campaigning came to an end on Tuesday in seven urban local bodies in Telangana going to polls on April 30 amid the surge in Covid cases.

Leaders of various political parties addressed rallies, conducted road shows and went door to door in a last-minute bid to woo the voters.

Campaigning ended 72 hours before the polling as the State Election Commission curtailed the canvassing period in view of Covid situation.

The state poll panel, however, is going ahead with the elections despite demands by the opposition parties to postpone them due to ongoing second wave of the pandemic.

Opposition Congress and BJP had even sought intervention by Governor Tamilisai Soundararajan to postpone the polls. However, the SEC maintained that it is taking all steps to prevent spread of Covid during the poll process.

The Telangana High Court on Tuesday expressed the apprehension that the polls could add to intensity of Covid wave. It asked SEC to submit a report by April 29 on the steps it is taking to check the Covid spread.

Polling will be held in the Greater Warangal Municipal Corporation, the Khammam Municipal Corporation, and the Atchampet, Siddipet, Nakrekaral, Jadcherla and Kothur municipalities.

A total of 11,26,221 voters are eligible to cast their votes in 248 wards of these urban local bodies.

The Greater Warangal Municipal Corporation has 66 wards and is the second biggest in the state after the Greater Hyderabad Municipal Corporation. The Khammam Municipal Corporation has 60 wards. Among five municipalities, Siddipet is the largest with 43 wards while Kothur is smallest with only 12 wards.

Warangal, Khammam and Siddipet are among the towns witnessing a surge in Covid cases over last few days. Health Minister E. Rajender himself admitted that urban areas like corporations and municipalities were reporting more cases.

The SEC, however, is going ahead with the polls as the Telangana Rashtra Samithi (TRS) government is not in favour of deferring them.

The SEC issued the notification for the polls on April 15 despite the intense second wave of the pandemic sweeping through the state. It announced that the Covid-19 guidelines will be strictly adhered to during the polling. This, however, failed to convince the opposition parties.

Though senior Congress leader Mohammed Ali Shabbir approached the Telangana High Court, seeking orders to SEC to postpone the polls in view of the spike in Covid cases, the latter declined to intervene and suggested him to move the SEC.

The SEC decided to go ahead with the polls as scheduled, apparently after the state government conveyed that the elections can be held with all Covid-related precautions in place.

The poll panel has only curtailed the duration of the poll campaign. The campaign came an end 72 hours before the polling. Usually, the campaign ends 48 hours before the polling.

The state’s single-day Covid spike crossed 10,000 on Monday. This was the highest single-day surge since the outbreak of the pandemic last year. The 24-hour period also saw 52 deaths.