Consult health experts, government on Covid situation, not political parties: Cong tells ECI

NEW DELHI, Dec 30: Lashing out at the Election Commission, the Congress Thursday asked it to consult health experts, seek data on COVID-19 from the government and take an independent decision on holding elections in five states rather than acting like a “toothless tiger”.
Taking exception to Chief Election Commissioner Sushil Chandra’s remarks in Lucknow that all political parties favoured holding elections on time following all Covid protocols, Congress chief spokesperson Randeep Singh Surjewala said the details about the Covid situation was with the Modi government and not with political parties.
Elections are due early next year in five states — Uttar Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Punjab, Goa and Manipur.
“Instead of acting like a toothless tiger, ECI should ask for data from Modi government, share it with all parties, consult health experts-epidemiologists-virologists and take an independent decision,” Surjewala said in a statement here.
“Constitutional responsibility of elections lies solely with Election Commission of India (ECI),” he said.
He told the Election Commission that the countrywide data of COVID-19 infection, its spread, the doubling time, the results of genome sequencing and the vaccine efficacy against the Omicron variant was with the Modi government and not with political parties.
Surjewala wondered whether the Election Commission was aware that 47.95 crore Indians were yet to be administered 59.40 crore vaccine doses.
“Newly added categories of booster doses for elderly and 15-18 year old would be additional 25.70 crore people needing 35.70 crore doses. With Omicron looming, we need 95.10 crore doses,” he said.
Surjewala sought to know whether the Election Commission had even asked the Modi government to share the data of COVID-19 infection, particularly the spread of Omicron, the vaccinations plan and timeline and efficacy of vaccine.
He accused the poll authority of being a “mute and complicit bystander” during the first wave of the pandemic as Prime Minister Narendra Modi “went ahead with ‘Namaste Trump’ and carried on with huge election rallies in Bengal and Jan Ashirvaad Yatras elsewhere”.
The Allahabad High Court had on December 23 suggested the Union government defer the Uttar Pradesh Assembly elections due to a possible Omicron-driven third Covid wave.
Earlier in day, Chief Election Commissioner Sushil Chandra said in Lucknow that all political parties in Uttar Pradesh want the assembly elections to be held according to schedule while ensuring Covid protocol.
The CEC also asked the state to step up coronavirus vaccination. (PTI)