Faced with an immense challenge to conduct polls, particularly Bihar Assembly elections, as coronavirus cases spike in the country, the Election Commission is finalizing the fine print while keeping social distancing norms in mind.
The body will reportedly restrict public presence in rallies, levy curbs on the door-to-door campaigns, and make special arrangements for polling booths and counting centers.
Here are more details.
The top body is in the last stage of finalizing the guidelines and will issue it in the next three days, making it certain that Bihar polls won't be postponed.
Political parties including Lok Janshakti Party (LJP), which is an NDA ally, and Lalu Prasad Yadav's RJD sought deferment citing coronavirus situation, which is ravaging the poor state.
So far, 558 have died there.
Now, in India, the third worst-hit nation reporting nearly 27.7 lakh coronavirus cases and over 53,000 fatalities, polls for Rajya Sabha and legislative council seats also happened during the pandemic, but they involved fewer voters.
However, the case for the 243-member-strong Bihar Assembly, wherein incumbent Chief Minister Nitish Kumar is eyeing another term, is different.
Hence, EC sought suggestions from the stakeholders.
On Friday, EC reviewed the suggestions sent by political parties and held a key meeting yesterday.
An official in the know told HT, "The guidelines will broadly center around three primary subjects — polling stations, counting halls, and public meetings. For example, in the counting hall, we used to have 14 tables, now we have slashed the number to seven."
Separately, citing sources, TOI said that rather than a show of strength during filing nomination, candidates will now be permitted with only two people.
Roadshows, which involve a long line of vehicles, may now have only five vehicles.
EC also wants do gaz ki doori motto to be followed during physical rallies, that traditionally see voters standing too close to one another.
However, the parties had pointed out to EC that digital rallies won't be an ideal way for campaigning. BJP, which is in power in the state as an ally, urged EC to let physical rallies and meetings happen in rural areas as voters might not have access to the internet.
CPI and CPI(M) also favored physical rallies, saying the virtual ones would be costlier.
Meanwhile, divulging details on changed physical rallies, another EC official told HT that only a limited number of people would be allowed in such rallies. Circles would be made to honor social distance.
Another official said the polling body isn't against physical rallies, it just wants parties to follow coronavirus-induced precautions.
Further, not more than three people will be involved in door-to-door campaigns.
Among other things, EC also pondered over election costs. Currently, a candidate is allowed to spend not more than Rs. 28 lakh on all election costs, although no such limit is levied on parties.
BJP urged EC to increase expenditure or exempt coronavirus-necessitated costs from the limit.
The EC has not made a decision in this regard.
Parties like RJD and AIMIM, who have staunchly opposed voting through EVMs, asked EC to return to ballot papers to minimise spread. EC might not accept this suggestion.
At polling booths, the numbers of voters will be brought down from 1,600 to 1,000, EC has said earlier. More booths will be set up to accommodate all eligible voters.
Evidently, the challenge is humongous.
Love Politics news?
Subscribe to stay updated.