IFP Editorial: It is best that political rallies are banned till the final hours of the poll and ECI gets down to improving the safety measures to be taken on poll day.
Updated 10 Jan 2022, 8:12 am
As the Election Commission of India (ECI) announced on Saturday afternoon the election for the legislative assemblies of five states, including Manipur, the Model Code of Conduct (MCC) automatically came into force and ‘everything’ was put on hold. As ruling parties got wind of the imminent announcement, inauguration and laying of foundation stones for projects was rushed and it went on till the final hour while a few had to be cancelled.
Well, officials and employees in the government secretariat were burning midnight oil in the last few days to put into effect cabinet decisions on appointments, regularisations and extensions and God forbid, what could have been a last day of business was second Saturday and everything was wrapped up by Friday. While a few backdated orders were issued, recruitment examinations and interviews were put on hold. Now with the announcement of elections political rallies of every kind and roadshows have been banned till January 15.
Along with the Model Code of Conduct, Covid-19 protocols to be followed at polling booths were also announced. In view of the pandemic, the number of voters at a polling station has been reduced to 1,250 from 1,500 thereby, increasing the number of election booths. Further, polling time has been increased by an hour. Political parties and candidates advised to conduct campaigns as much as possible through digital based mode.
Maximum of five persons are allowed for door-to-door election campaigns by candidates. No victory procession to be allowed post-results. Chief Election Commissioner Sushil Chandra stressed that strict action will be taken against those violating Covid-19 guidelines, including restrictions on physical events. The Election Commission had already asked the chief secretaries of five poll-bound states to “accelerate” the pace of Covid-19 vaccination.
The restrictions put by the Election Commission of India, however, raises several questions on issues of public safety in view of the pandemic. But today we shall deal only with the question, why political rallies should be banned only till January 15 which is only a week away. Of course, we understand that holding elections is a Constitutional obligation of the ECI. But, the third wave of the Covid-19 pandemic is just beginning across the country, including Manipur.
In the last few days, positive cases had been rising rapidly in the state after a brief lull while Covid 19 vaccination is extremely low particularly in some of the hill districts. The Union Health Ministry had already expressed its concern with the state authorities regarding the low vaccination. On the other hand, night curfew in the state has been set from 9 pm to 5 am.
Earlier, it was from 9 pm to 4 am. Physical classes had been allowed for class IX and above with a condition that the number of students should not exceed 50 percent of the capacity of the classroom. The new norm is online classes should be increased and physical classes reduced and no physical classes in coaching centres and private tuition centres will be allowed. Social gathering is allowed subject to ensuring that COVID Appropriate Behaviour i.e. wearing of mask, maintaining physical distance are followed by all present in the venue.
The gathering should be preferably in open halls and spaces. In case it is held in enclosed spaces or halls, the number of people inside should not be more than 50 percent capacity of the hall/space. The Home Department order further said that micro containment zones should be strictly monitored and DCs should involve the local clubs/local bodies with specific jurisdictions.
So why restrict political rallies only upto January 15? Well, ECI has been briefed on the third wave besides the risk analysis and expert opinions by top ranking officials as to the various trajectories of the pandemic. But how it could be so certain that the situation might possibly get better after January 15. For us, it is best that political rallies are banned till the final hours of the poll and ECI gets down to improving the safety measures to be taken on poll day.