EC opens up physical campaigning events; ban on roadshows, processions continues

The Election Commission on Sunday extended the ban on roadshows, ‘pad yatras’, cycle and vehicle rallies but gave fresh relaxations for indoor and outdoor physical campaigning events for the polls citing reduction in COVID-19 cases.
The new relaxations will help political parties hold bigger physical campaigning events in the run up to the polls in the five states of Uttar Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Goa, Punjab and Manipur.
The campaigning for phase one of Uttar Pradesh assembly election on February 10 ends on February 8 evening.
The Commission allowed opening up of physical campaigning events based on inputs received by state chief secretaries, its observers and the Union Health Ministry.
The Union Health Secretary told the EC on Saturday that the poll-going states are contributing a very small proportion of the total reported COVID-19 cases in the country.
In a statement, the EC said restrictions regarding “outdoor meetings, indoor meetings, rallies” will be further relaxed subject to condition that the number of persons attending these events will be limited to maximum of 50 per cent of the capacity of indoor halls and 30 per cent of the open ground capacity or as fixed by district election officer as per requirement of the social distancing norms, and whichever is less.
“If the state disaster management authority has set the ceiling limits or percentage of the capacity for number of persons attending indoor hall or open ground and they are stricter, SDMA guidelines will prevail,” the EC said.
“Open ground rallies” can be held only in the grounds specifically designated by the district authorities and subject to compliance of all the conditions of SDMA.
Allocation of these grounds will be given equitably by district administration through e-Suvidha portal on first come first serve basis, the EC pointed out. Capacities of these grounds will be fixed by the district administration well in advance and notify to all the parties.
“There should be multiple entry and exit points so that there is no crowding as people are coming and leaving the venue. All entrances must have adequate hand hygiene and thermal screening provisions,” it said.
In the last review on January 31, the Commission had allowed political parties and candidates to hold outdoor meetings in designated open spaces with a maximum of 1000 persons (instead of earlier 500 persons) or 50 per cent of the capacity of the ground and for indoor meetings, a maximum of 500 persons (instead of earlier 300 persons) or 50 per cent of the capacity of the hall or the prescribed limit set by SDMA, whichever number is lesser, from February 1 for all phases.
On other campaigning means, the EC said maximum number of persons permissible for door-to-door campaigning fixed at 20 will remain as before. The ban on campaign between 8 PM and 8 AM will also continue as before, the EC said.
Chief Secretaries of poll-going states had apprised the EC that there has been significant improvement in the prevailing Covid situation, a considerable decrease in the number of positive cases of Coid and also decrease in cases of hospitalisation.
“Most of them have recommended to the Commission to consider for relaxation and allow increased number of persons in the indoor/outdoor campaign meetings,” the statement said.
After receiving references from chief secretaries, the Commission took inputs and views from its special observers. Many of them said that the Covid situation has improved substantially and positivity rate has come down significantly. They have also stated that coverage of vaccination in the state is very satisfactory for the first dose, second dose and precaution dose to frontline workers and poll duty officials.
“In this light, they have recommended that the Commission may consider revisiting the existing campaign guidelines and permit further relaxation in the campaign norm to ensure greater participation in the ongoing election process. Most of them recommended to increase limit the number of people attending the rallies in open and indoor space to about 50 per cent and not limiting it to a number,” the statement said.
On Saturday, the Union Health Secretary briefed the EC about the ground situation of COVID-19. He informed that Covid cases are fast receding in the country and even in the reported cases maximum cases are reported from non-poll going states.
The poll going states are contributing a very small proportion of the total reported cases in the country, he said according to the statement. The top health ministry official said that the peak of Covid had been reached on January 21/22 after that all
India’s figures of Covid cases are fast receding from around 2.93 lakh to 1.72 lakh. In the poll-going states of Uttar Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Punjab, Manipur and Goa, the total number of cases which were more than 32,000 at peak on January 22 have reduced to around 7000 on February 5.
The EC said it will continue to review the situation. (PTI)