NEW DELHI: Even though the Covid-19 situation appears to have eased in the country, the Election Commission is against lowering its guard just yet and may apply the same Covid guidelines it had enforced during the conduct of October 30 parliamentary and assembly bypolls, to the five state elections due early next year.
Elections in Uttar Pradesh, Punjab, Uttarakhand, Goa and Manipur are likely to be held in February-March, keeping in mind that the term of Goa assembly is expiring on March 15, 2022. While the term of assemblies in the other four poll-bound states ends only later, with UP’s expiring only on May 14, 2022, since all five state polls are to be held together, EC may schedule them such that polling and counting for all is complete before March 15 next year.
The poll panel, at a meeting here on Tuesday with chief electoral officers (CEOs) of the five states, instructed them not to lower the guard and take all precautions against spread of Covid during public gatherings and other campaign activities. Among the other issues discussed were increase in the number of booths with the EC capping the number of voters per polling station to 1,200, how to increase turnout in hitherto low-turnout booths with booth-level promotions, improved women’s participation, better facilities in polling stations to make voting a pleasant experience and how to ease voting for persons with disabilities and senior citizens.
As things stand now, EC wants to remain firm on enforcing its Covid guidelines issued on September 28, 2021, that required indoor campaigning to be capped at 30% of allowed capacity or 200 persons, whichever is less, and outdoor campaigning to 50% of capacity of ground or 1,000 for rallies with star campaigners or 50% of capacity or 500 people in all other cases. No roadshow or car/bike/cycle rallies were allowed and the ‘silence period’ stretched to 72 hours before end of poll. Victory processions were also banned.
An EC functionary said the intention, as of now, is to retain these restrictions for the ensuing state polls. This, however, leaves scope for a review closer to announcement of polls.
Sources told TOI that Punjab and Manipur have asked for more security forces to be deployed for polls, citing the continuing farmers’ stir and recent ambush by insurgents that killed 7 including 5 Army personnel respectively.




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