Akhilesh Yadav to face popularity test with urban bodies polls
Only three months into office, the UP chief minister will be facing test next month with the urban local bodies elections
Virendra Nath Bhatt
The fledgling Samajwadi Party (SP) government headed by Akhilesh Yadav, the youngest ever chief minister of UP, will face the first popularity test next month in the urban local body elections. The state election commission for panchyats and urban local bodies on Friday announced the poll schedule where 605 urban local bodies including 12 municipal corporations will go to polls in four phases between June 24 and July 4. The election to the urban local bodies is being held after the delay of over six months.
The previous Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) government had stalled the elections which were due in November 2011, as it was unwilling to face the urban electorate just ahead of the assembly elections that were due in two months in February/March 2012.
The Mayawati led government had also amended the laws governing the urban local bodies. The first law related to making the election of the mayor of municipal corporation indirect, which is presently elected directly by the electorate. The state governor BL Joshi had withheld his approval to the bill to this effect passed by the UP assembly in June 2011. The second amendment in the existing law providing for freezing the use of symbols by political parties in elections of urban local bodies was quashed by the Allahabad High Court. The then BSP government had filed a special leave petition in the Supreme Court challenging the Allahabad HC’s order. The petition is still pending.
The SP has already announced that barring the election of mayor in 12 municipal corporations, the party will not contest the election on the party symbol. However, party sources said the party is reconsidering its decision.
“The rank and file of the party is in favour that the party should take the plunge in the polls on its own symbol. The parliamentary board of the party is meeting here on Saturday to consider this issue and the party is likely to announce its decision very soon,” said SP spokesman Rajendra Chowdhary. A senior minister in the SP government said “Come what may we should contest the urban local body polls on the party symbol, otherwise it would send a very bad message to the masses that we are scared of facing the people within less than three months of forming the government after the assembly elections in March 2012. Moreover, we are also conscious of the fact that we have to face one more important electoral battle in Parliament elections of 2014, so we cannot run away and we should contest the urban local body elections on our symbol.”
The BSP had never contested the urban local body elections in UP on its symbol. However, this time, the BSP has announced that it will not contest the urban local body elections at all, fearing that the ‘goons’ of the SP may target its party candidates.
Addressing party workers convention here on May 10, Mayawati had said, “SP's record has always been bad in this regard. Under such circumstances not only there is question on free and fair conduct of forthcoming local body’s elections, but there is also apprehension of large scale violence and loss of lives of our men, which I cannot tolerate.”
Meanwhile, the State Election Commissioner (SEC) SK Agarwal said the ‘model code of conduct’ has come into force with immediate effect from Friday though there would be no restriction on the state government to present the budget for the current fiscal 2012-13. The budget session of the UP assembly is to commence from May 28.
The SEC said that polling for the first phase would be held on 24 June in 18 districts, while in 17 districts it would be on 27 June. Twenty and 17 districts would go to the polls under the third and fourth phases respectively to be held on 1 July and 4 July. Counting of votes of all the phases will take place on 7 July.
Urban local body’s elections in three districts of Kannauj, Ramabai Nagar and Auriyya would not be held due to the by election in Kannauj Lok Sabha seat on June 24. The by election has been called after the sitting MP Akhilesh Yadav resigned post taking over as the CM of UP.
Around 30 million voters are expected to exercise their franchise in the elections. The notification for the first phase of polling would be issued on 27 May, for the second phase on 31 May, third phase on 5 June and the last phase on 7 June.
UP has a total of 605 urban local bodies, which include 12 Municipal corporations, 181 nagar palika parishad or municipalities and 404 nagar panchyats or town areas.
Virendra Nath Bhatt is a Special Correspondent with Tehelka.