Local body elections in the State are likely to be conducted by mid-October so that new committees will assume office by November 12.
The State Election Commission (SEC) would soon submit proposals for amending the Kerala Panchayati Raj Act and the Kerala Municipalities Act to extend the polling timing by one hour.
Considering the physical distancing norms enforced following the COVID-19 spread, the commission would seek an enhancement in the polling time from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. and that would necessitate amendment to the Acts, local body sources said.
Once the commission places the proposals, the government would take the lead in promulgating an ordinance. Convening the Assembly in the given circumstances may not be feasible. But the government and the commission are keen on honouring the November 12 deadline for the formation of the new committees and hence the sole option is to seek the ordinance route.
Those privy to the legislative procedures told The Hindu that the government need not hold an Assembly session for amending the Acts, and promulgating the ordinance is a sound legal option. The Cabinet could clear a draft ordinance and promulgate it with the consent of the Governor.
The commission may seek the opinion of health experts for finalising the modalities of the polling process. The government has already set an example in executing such a major task without giving room for complaints by holding the SSLC and Plus Two examinations recently.
Hence, the commission too may elicit expert advice for poll process as per physical distancing norms by August and then conduct a meeting of political parties before finalising the schedule.
Since Ayudha Puja holidays fall towards the end of October, elections may be held by mid-October itself. Unlike in the previous years, the campaign would see a paradigm shift. And this would be the first major election to be held in the State without mass rallies and public meetings.
Candidates and parties will have to ensure that the COVID-19 protocol is not impeding voter participation and the election as well as the campaign may be unique in that respect.