Political rallies likely to be banned amid pandemic

New Delhi: Sources told NDTV on Saturday evening that the temporary ban on rallies ahead of elections in five states – imposed by the Election Commission last week as Covid cases spiked.

Sources said that for how many days the ban will be extended, it will be announced later.

On January 8, the apex election body had said that rallies, road shows and certain other types of public political events would be banned till January 15 (today) and then the order would be reviewed.

Today the Election Commission held several meetings – with the Union Health Secretary at 11 am, Chief and Health Secretaries of all polling states in the afternoon and Chief Electoral Officers at 1 pm.

The order banning rallies and road shows was passed as part of a list of measures announced to ensure that elections are held in Uttar Pradesh, Punjab, Goa, Uttarakhand and Manipur as safely as possible.

That list of ‘no-no’ activities included the holding of street corner, or holding roadside meetings, and limiting the number of people allowed to preach from house to house.

Elections are being held in UP, Punjab, Goa, Manipur and Uttarakhand, while there has been a catastrophic increase in COVID cases across the country, including in some polling states.

UP recorded a whopping 1300 per cent increase in Covid infections in the first week of this month, while 16 out of 22 districts in Punjab have a positivity rate of more than five per cent, which is the danger level.

Medical experts and civil society groups, as well as the Allahabad High Court, urged the Election Commission to postpone the election, but the request was denied; The Election Commission said it is bound by the Constitution to hold elections in a “timely” manner.

Concerns were raised that campaign events such as rallies and road shows – which involve thousands of people – could become a super-spreader, especially with the more contagious Omicron version now driving a third wave in the country.

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