EC warns political parties to follow COVID-19 guidelines or risk ban on rallies

Amid rising coronavirus COVID-19 cases across India, the Election Commission (EC) has raised serious concerns over the violation of COVID-19 guidelines by leaders of different political parties during election campaign in West Bengal and other states and warned that the EC will ban political rallies if they fail to comply to the COVID guidelines.

The poll panel write letter to all recognised political parties and said, “It is widely known that in the recent weeks, COVID cases are being reported in larger numbers. However, instances of election meetings/campaigns have come to the notice of the commission, where norms of social distancing, wearing of masks have been flouted in disregard to the commission’s guidelines.”

In its letter, the EC highlighted several instances of star campaigners and political leaders or candidates not observing COVID-19 protocols, “including non-wearing of masks themselves at stage or while campaigning”.

“By doing so, the political parties and candidates are exposing themselves as well as the public attending such election meetings to the grave danger of the infection,” the letter said.

In cases of breach, the Election Commission (EC) said it will “not hesitate in banning public meetings, rallies of defaulting candidates, star campaigners or political leaders without any further reference”.

The Delhi High Court had recently sought responses from the EC and the Centre on the use of masks during poll campaigns.

It is to be noted that the three-phase election in Assam and the single-phase polls in Tamil Nadu, Kerala and Puducherry are now over but four phases of eight-phase West Bengal are still to take place.

The poll panel said it has taken a “serious view of the laxity” in following norms, particularly not wearing masks and not maintaining social distancing by political leaders on the dais or stage.

“Political parties, leaders, campaigners, candidates, existing or aspiring policymakers are expected to be torch-bearers for the campaign against COVID and hence, are expected to not only set an example by maintaining social distancing, wearing masks and following prescribed protocols but also by exhorting all the local formations who attend programmes to follow COVID protocols,” the letter read.

(With inputs from DNA India)

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