NEW DELHI: The Election Commission of India (ECI) on Saturday allowed physical meetings of political parties or candidates contesting the upcoming Assembly elections in five states in designated open spaces with some restrictions after holding a review meeting with the Health Ministry and concerned officials of the poll-bound states. However, the ban on rallies, road shows and padyatras has been extended till January 31.
Five states – Uttar Pradesh, Punjab, Goa, Manipur and Uttarakhand – will go to the polls between February 10 and March 7, while the counting of votes will be taken up on March 10. The Commission held virtual meetings with the Chief Secretaries, Chief Electoral Officers and Health Secretaries of the poll bound states.
Chief Election Commissioner Sushil Chandra along with Election Commissioners Rajiv Kumar and Anup Chandra Pandey held a comprehensive review of the present Covid situation and projected trends in the poll-bound states. The Commission also reviewed the vaccination status and action plan for expeditiously completing vaccination for first, second and booster dose for the eligible persons among the polling staff.
After considering the ongoing Covid situation, the Commission extended the ban on road shows and padyatras till January 31. "No road show, padyatra, cycle/bike/vehicle rally and procession shall be allowed till January 31, 2022," the EC said. However, it allowed for physical meetings with some restrictions.
"Since contesting candidates for Phase 1 elections will be finalized on January 27, the Commission has decided to allow physical meetings of concerned political parties or contesting candidates in designated open spaces with a maximum of 500 persons or 50 per cent of the capacity of the ground or the prescribed limit set by SDMA, whichever is lesser, from January 28 till February 8, excluding the silence period," the poll panel said in a statement.
The Commission has also allowed for physical meetings with same restrictions for Phase 2 of the elections from February 1 to February 12, excluding during the silence period. The Commission has enhanced the door-to-door campaign limit from 5 persons to 10 persons, excluding security personnel.
Among other relaxations, the Commission has allowed video vans for publicity with usual Covid restrictions at designated open spaces with a maximum of 500 viewers or 50 per cent of the capacity or the limit set by the SDMA. The EC had already granted relaxation for indoor meetings with a maximum of 300 persons or 50 per cent of the capacity of the hall or the prescribed limit set by the SDMA.
"Political parties and contesting candidates shall ensure the compliance of Covid-appropriate behaviour and the Model Code of Conduct at all occasions during the activities connected with the elections," the EC said. The poll panel added that it will be the district election officer's responsibility to identify and to notify the designated spaces in advance for the purposes. IANS