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Wednesday, September 23, 2020

EC issues guidelines ahead of Bihar polls: Oppn parties say barriers may impact participation of voters

The Congress said the guidelines “fall far short” for the smooth conduct of elections in “free, non-partisan and fair fashion” without giving undue advantage to the ruling party.

Written by Manoj C G | New Delhi | August 22, 2020 1:43:21 am
K C Venugopal, Manoj Kumar Jha

As the Election Commission came out with guidelines for conduct of elections during the Covid-19 pandemic ahead of Bihar Assembly polls, the RJD —which leads the opposition alliance in the state — on Friday said the imposition of so many “barriers” may impact “wholesome participation of voters” in the “festival of democracy”.

It said the poll body should decide what is more important — saving people’s lives or attending to the need of the formation of Assembly.

The Congress said the guidelines “fall far short” for the smooth conduct of elections in “free, non-partisan and fair fashion” without giving undue advantage to the ruling party.

AICC general secretary (organisation) K C Venugopal said there are many “deficiencies” in the guidelines and that the EC has overlooked almost all suggestions given by the party.

The Congress, he said, had requested that EVMs be avoided, given the high chances of infection from shared use of one machine. “The ECI has completely failed to address this concern, instead opting to passively state that EVMs and VVPATs will be sanitised. As the last six months have established, this is not a fool-proof measure,” he said.

Besides, the guidelines don’t make any deep distinctions between the specific challenges of rural areas and urban areas which have seen the spread of Covid-19 in different ways, he said.

“The guidelines say that the relevant provisions of the Disaster Management Act, 2005 and the IPC will be invoked against anyone who violates the guidelines. However, the ECI has surprisingly missed the potential for abuse by the ruling party which controls the policing machinery,” he added.

RJD leader and Rajya Sabha MP Manoj Kumar Jha told The Indian Express, “What if you end up having 30 per cent voting? My worry is that. We all love to call it the festival of democracy. But would we enjoy a festival if there are so many barriers, so many don’ts? There are less dos and more don’ts in this (guidelines) and that will impact the wholesome participation of voters.”

Asked whether the RJD was still in favour of deferring elections, Jha said, “The RJD feels that the EC has a very, very difficult choice to make — saving people’s lives and attending to the need of the formation of Assembly. EC should decide what is more important.”

RJD spokesperson Mrityunjay Twari said: “We are not satisfied with the EC’s clear hints of holding polls in time. Bihar election can turn out to be a super-spreader for Covid infection.”

Bihar Congress president Madan Mohan Jha said the party had earlier asked the EC to postpone the elections by two months. “But since the EC has come out with guidelines, it seems they are in a mood to hold elections. The question is what they have said in the guidelines… how it can and will be implemented on the ground in Bihar,” he said.

– With inputs from ENS Patna

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