The Election Commission (EC) has decided to go ahead with conduct of Assembly elections in five states despite the skyrocketing COVID cases in India.
The EC explained its decision by saying that the holding of timely elections is the “essence of maintaining democratic governance”, and listed out the safety protocols it has instituted for the same, while announcing the poll schedule on Saturday.
The commission has prohibited physical rallies, roadshows and public meetings till January 15, and will review the order post that as the “ground situation is dynamic”.
Polling in the five states of UP, Punjab, Uttarakhand, Manipur and Goa will be held under strict COVID measures to ensure maximum participation, according to Chief Election Commissioner Sushil Chandra.
While UP will go to the polls in seven phases from February 10 to March 7, Punjab, Uttarakhand and Goa will vote in a single phase on February 14. Manipur will vote in two phases on February 27 and March 3. The counting of votes will be held on March 10, the poll body said.
Also read: 7-phase polls in 5 states begins Feb 10, results on March 10
“The candidates should conduct their campaign through virtual mode as much as possible… There will be no nukkad sabhas (neighbourhood meetings) on public roads and no victory procession after the counting,” said the EC, which had drawn much criticism after the second COVID wave that followed a string of Assembly elections in April-May last year.
All polling stations will be equipped with COVID-mitigation facilities including sanitisers and masks, and the number of booths will be increased. The voting time will also be increased by an hour.
“All voters, candidates, parties, should be conscious towards public health and COVID protocols. The parties should give masks and sanitisers for political meets. Door-to-door campaigns can involve only five people,” said the EC, which had detailed talks with the health secretary, home secretary, and health experts before taking a decision on the polls.