Two opposition parties in Bihar and an NDA ally have opposed virtual rallies as a mode of campaigning in the upcoming Assembly elections even as BJP has supported the idea in its feedback to the Election Commission (EC), The Indian Express has learnt.
While Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) and CPI(M) have urged the panel to not allow digital rallies on grounds of disruption of the level-playing field, Lok Janshakti Party (LJP), an NDA constituent, has suggested less emphasis on this mode of campaigning.
The BJP launched its campaign in Bihar with a virtual rally addressed by Home Minister Amit Shah in June. Party leaders have since then conducted a series of digital rallies. The BJP has also set up around 10,000 IT cells to prepare for elections in the state.
Feedback from political parties was part of EC’s exercise to collate suggestions on campaigning for elections during a pandemic. Chief Election Commissioner Sunil Arora and Election Commissioners Ashok Lavasa and Sushil Chandra were briefed on Friday on the feedback received. EC is likely to issue a set of guidelines on poll campaign for Bihar elections based on the feedback.
According to sources, more than 15 parties had replied to EC, of which only four sought postponement of elections due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
The LJP, Nationalist Congress Party (NCP), National People’s Party (NPP) and the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) have asked the Commission to defer the upcoming Assembly elections in the wake of the pandemic and floods in the state, The Indian Express has learnt. Of the four, only LJP is a state party in Bihar.
While the RJD has questioned the need to hold elections in the middle of a pandemic, the party has not categorically asked the Commission to postpone them. Similarly, the Congress, whose spokesperson Premchand Mishra has often demanded postponement of polls, has not said so in its feedback to the EC.
The JDU, part of the ruling NDA in Bihar, has asked the Commission to conduct elections in one phase in view of the pandemic. Last time, in 2015, Bihar went to polls over five phases.
The BJP has suggested that the expenditure ceiling for candidates should be increased to accommodate for the added expenditure on masks, soap, PPE kits and thermal screening during the campaign phase, given the precautions to be taken in view of coronavirus. Alternatively, it said such expense should be added to the party’s account and not the candidate’s.
The BJP has also said EC should conduct awareness campaigns to encourage people to vote without fear by following precautions against Covid-19. It has suggested that all party workers, campaigners and leaders must download the Aarogya Setu app.
Congress has urged the panel to allow door-to-door campaigning without restrictions, except that the size of campaign squad should be limited to 10 workers.