Updated: January 23, 2022 6:38:18 am
The Election Commission Saturday consulted health authorities and announced that the ban on physical rallies and roadshows for Assembly elections in five states next month was being extended to January 31, but parties would be allowed to hold physical public meetings of candidates from January 28 for Phase 1 of the elections, and from February 1 for Phase 2.
While Uttar Pradesh will vote in seven phases on February 10, 14, 20, 23, 27, March 3 and 7, polling in Uttarakhand and Goa will be held on February 14. Punjab will vote on February 20 while Manipur will go to polls on February 27 and March 3.
The Commission also increased the limit on the number of people who can go for door-to-door campaigning from five to 10 persons (excluding security personnel) and allowed video vans for publicity at designated open spaces with Covid-19 restrictions.
“No road show, padyatra, cycle/bike/vehicle rally and procession shall be allowed till January 31,” the Commission said in a statement.
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“Since contesting candidates for Phase 1 elections will be finalised on January 27, 2022, Commission has decided to allow physical public meetings of political parties or contesting candidates in designated open spaces with a maximum of 500 persons or 50% of the capacity of the ground or the prescribed limit set by SDMA, whichever number is lesser, from January 28, 2022 till February 8 2022 (excluding the silence period),” it said.
For Phase 2 candidates, the same conditions will apply when they hold public meetings from “February 1, 2022 till February 12, 2022 (excluding the silence period)”.
Last week, while extending the ban on physical rallies, the Commission granted relaxation to political parties to the extent that indoor meetings of a maximum of 300 persons or 50% of the capacity of the hall or the prescribed limit set by SDMA would be allowed.
On Saturday, the Commission held virtual meetings with the Health Ministry and Chief Secretaries and Health Secretaries of Goa, Manipur, Punjab, Uttarakhand and Uttar Pradesh, and also the Chief Electoral Officers of the five poll-bound states.
For parties, some relief
For candidates in constituencies going to polls in the first two phases, the EC decision to allow limited public meetings will be a welcome relief since there’s very little time left for campaigning. While parties have been bracing for virtual campaigns, the increase in the number of people allowed for door-to-door campaigning will also help candidates.
Chief Election Commissioner Sushil Chandra, along with Election Commissioners Rajiv Kumar and Anup Chandra Pandey, accompanied by the Secretary General and Deputy Election Commissioners also held a separate review of the present status and projected Covid-19 trends.
“Commission also reviewed vaccination status and action plan for expeditiously completing vaccination for 1st, 2nd and booster dose for eligible persons amongst polling personnel. Commission deliberated on relaxing restrictions for physical rallies in the wake of prevailing situation,” it said.
“Commission has also allowed video vans for publicity with usual Covid restrictions at designated open spaces with a maximum of 500 viewers or 50% of the capacity or the limit prescribed by SDMA, whichever is lesser, in the poll-going States subject to public convenience and no hindrance to smooth flow of traffic. (Instructions in this regard are being sent to the CEOs separately),” it said.
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