Monday, 7 April, 2008

Polls apart

B V Shiva Shankar for Mid Day
The Hogenakkal row could be just what some political parties need to postpone elections
Karnataka goes to the polls next month, but the Congress may use the Hogenakkal row as an excuse to ask for a change in the schedule.
An intelligence report submitted to the government says law and order problems could hinder the poll process. The Election Commission announced yesterday Karnataka would vote on May 10, 16 and 22.
What’s happening?
Prime minister Manmohan Singh and Governor Rameswar Thakur also met to take stock yesterday. A source said they discussed the possibility of postponing elections, but did not make any public comment to that effect as it could earn a bad name for the Congress.
Sonia Gandhi summoned S M Krishna to Delhi yesterday, also to discuss poll preparedness.
“The party is not for elections in this situation,” said a Congress leader. “ If the messy electoral rolls are an issue, the Hogenakkal controversy could spoil the atmosphere necessary to hold elections.”But Congressmen are afraid they will be called spoilsports if they push for a postponement.
Bigger issues
The intelligence report submitted three days ago says the Hogenakkal row and related law and order problems could make things difficult in southern Karnataka, while Naxals could create problems in the central districts. The report identifies Hogenakkal as the biggest hindrance.
As the Election Commission announced a poll timetable on Wednesday, Karnataka Rakshana Vedike (KRV) escalated protests across the state.
“We are not concerned about elections. What is the point in having elections when the basics of our state are at stake? We don’t care if our agitation affects the poll process,” said T A Narayana Gowda, president, KRV.
Strikes galore
KRV, which had stalled screening of Tamil films and telecast of Tamil channels at several places, may stop buses coming from Tamil Nadu today.
“Taking dalits, farmers, and Kannada organisations with us, we will organise a massive rally on April 12 in Kollegal, and call a statewide bandh,” said Gowda.
Vatal Nagaraj, former MLA and president of Akhila Karnataka Gadi Horata Samiti, said his organisation had already decided to call a bundh on April 10.
No problem
However, the Election Commission is confident of conducting free and fair elections.
“The police will take care of law and order. As far as I know the Election Commission is fully geared for polls,” said B V Kulkarni, joint chief electoral officer.
P K H Tarakan, advisor to the Governor, said, “We will see that elections are not affected.”
Governor Rameswar Thakur said, after meeting the prime minister in Delhi, “The issue is serious. I know there is a bit of tension that we can not ignore, but things will follow the normal course.”
Shankar Bidri, additional director general, law and order, told MiD DAY, “I see no law and order problems. If KRV wants to protest, we will allow them to do so in a democratic way.”

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