The State Election Commission announced a two-phased polls for over 5,700 gram panchayats in Karnataka.
The first phase of elections will be held on December 22 for 2,930 gram panchayats and the second one on December 27 for 2,832 gram panchayats. The results will be out on December 30.
The gram panchayat elections are often seen as a barometer to gauge the public mood in rural areas.
The elections are being held amid apprehension from the state government, which had asked the SEC to postpone the polls due to the Covid-19 pandemic. However, the High Court rapped the government and directed the SEC to conduct the elections while hearing a petition filed by Congress leader KC Kondaiah and others.
State Election Commissioner B Basavaraju said 5,762 gram panchayats will go to polls. “There are 162 gram panchayats whose term ends after December 2020, six whose election cases are in court, 74 that are either completely (33) or partially (41) upgraded to town panchayats are exempt from elections," he said.
The total electoral strength for the polls is 2,97,15,048 of which 1,49,71,676 are men, 1,47,41,964 women and 1,048 third gender. The number of voters in all polling booths is reduced to 1,000 from 1,500 as part of the Standard Operating Procedure formulated for the elections.
Basavaraju said that half the taluks in a district will vote in either of the two phases and staff from the same district will be used for election duty. This, he said, was being done to prevent the movement of officials or staff to other districts during the pandemic.
Polling will be held between 7 am to 5 pm and measures are in place to allow Covid-19 voters to cast their ballot during the last hour of voting, Basavaraju added.
Earlier this month, Health & Family Welfare Minister K Sudhakar had said experts wanted the gram panchayat elections to be put off till February 2021. According to him, apprehensions have been expressed that conducting the polls might lead to “door delivery of the virus” as door-to-door campaigns are crucial during such local polls.