Citing the successful conduct of Bihar elections amid the Covid-19 pandemic, Chief Election Commissioner Sunil Arora on Thursday urged other democracies to emulate India’s example and hold elections on time.
Arora, who was speaking at a virtual conference organised by the Election Commission (EC) to familiarise other countries with India’s experience of conducting polls amid the pandemic, said that the EC had been discouraged from holding the Bihar Assembly polls on time, with “cynics” and “sceptics” giving “doomsday predictions”.
The Commission, he said, tested the ground with the Rajya Sabha elections in June before deciding on Bihar. The decision to go ahead with the election has turned out to be a “leap of faith” and not a “leap into the fire”, he added.
Belying expectations, the voter turnout in Bihar has been as good as the last Assembly elections in 2015, if not better, he said. Organising polls in Bihar amidst the pandemic, given the states’ diversity and history of caste politics and communal tensions, was a “formidable” task, the CEC said.
“We (EC) always call it (our elections) free, fair, robust, transparent and ethical elections in India. But we had to add another facet of safe elections this time… Looking at the sheer diversity, dimensions of our country, it was not easy… We had to do meticulous preparation. This time this new dimension made our task more onerous, challenging as well as formidable,” Arora said.
Despite the option extended to senior citizens and physically challenged voters this time to cast absentee vote, the CEC informed the audience, a majority chose to exercise their franchise in person. “Elections in India become a virtual festival of democracy, and people like to come and participate in the elections,” he said.
“All EMBS (Election Management Bodies) can be enthused enough by India’s foray into polls to pick up the gauntlet and organise elections as per the original schedule. I am not trying to sermonise. My limited point is that if elections are held on time, the system will go on seamlessly and people have a chance to exercise their voting rights,” he said.
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