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Assembly polls: Rallies, election campaigning to be allowed only in earmarked places with prior permissions after Jan 15

New Delhi [India]: In the wake of the COVID-19 surge, the Election Commission of India on Saturday directed that no physical political rallies and roadshows will be allowed till January 15, however, further rallies and election campaign meetings will be allowed only in earmarked places and with prior permissions of district administration.

In the revised guidelines the ECI said, "No roadshow, Pad-yatra, cycle, bike, vehicle rally and procession shall be allowed till 15 January 2022. The commission shall subsequently review the situation and issue further instructions accordingly. Further, rallies and meetings shall be allowed only in earmarked places and with prior permissions of district administration." The election commission further said that all the parties or candidates have to furnish an undertaking in the application and allocation of public spaces will be done using the Suvidha app.

However, physical rallies during the campaign period, as and when permitted after the decision of the Commission shall be conducted subject to adherence to extant COVID-19 guidelines.

The maximum limit of persons allowed for indoor and outdoor rallies and meetings shall be as per the existing direction of respective State Disaster Management Authorities (SDMAs).

"For these meetings, political parties shall distribute masks and sanitisers to persons attending and maintain COVID protocol at entry and exit point," it said.

The ECI said that between 8 pm and 8 am no rallies and public will be allowed on any campaign day, while the Nukkad Sabhas will not be allowed on public roads, roundabouts or public streets or corners.

It also advised Political parties and candidates to conduct their campaign as much as possible through digital, virtual, media platforms or mobile-based mode instead of physical mode ensuring strict compliance with COVID safety norms.

The ECI also directed the District Election Officer to identify dedicated grounds for public gatherings with clearly marked entry and exit points. It also said that the District Election Officer should ensure that markers for social distancing norms are put in place in advance by organisers of the meeting/rally.

"The political parties and candidates concerned shall ensure that all COVID-19 related requirements like face masks, sanitisers, thermal scanning etc. are fulfilled during each of election-related activities," the guideline reads.

For door to door campaigning a maximum of five persons including a candidate, excluding security personnel will be allowed.

"The convoy of vehicles shall be broken after every 5 (five) vehicles and the interval between two sets of convoys of vehicles should be half an hour instead of the gap of 100 meters. During the permitted campaign period, a convoy of vehicles will be allowed only for movement of the vehicle from one point to another point for campaigning," it said.

The maximum number of star campaigners for recognized national or state political parties has been fixed 30 in place of 40, for unrecognized political parties 15 in place of 20. "Request for permission for the campaign by star campaigners may be given at least 48 hours before the start of the campaign to make all necessary safety arrangements," the ECI said.

The Commission said that no victory procession after the counting will be allowed and not more than two persons will be allowed to accompany the winning candidate or his/her authorized representative to receive the certificate of election from Returning Officer.

"If a candidate or political party violates any of the above guidelines, no further permission shall be given to the concerned candidate or party for rallies, meetings etc.," it added.

The Commission further said that the safety of vote and voters, both are equally and critically important in a democracy.

"Therefore, it is the duty of the Commission to fulfil its constitutional mandate and those of Authorities/ Committee(s) under the Disaster Management Act, 2005 (DM Act) to extend support as per legal and institutional framework to steer elections even during an unprecedented pandemic for putting elected government in place within due time," it said.

The Commission also held consultations with Union Home Secretary, Union Health Secretary and Medical experts, Chief Secretaries and Health Secretaries of all poll going states regarding prevailing COVID situation and measures being taken or planned by them.

The ECI on Saturday announced the schedule for the upcoming Assembly elections in Uttar Pradesh, Goa, Punjab, Manipur and Uttarakhand.

403 Assembly seats are slated to go to polls in Uttar Pradesh, 70 seats are up for grabs in Uttarakhand, 117 seats in Punjab, 40 seats in Goa and 60 seats in Manipur.

Uttar Pradesh will go to the assembly polls in 7 phases from February 10 to March 7, Punjab, Uttarakhand and Goa will vote on February 14 and Manipur will vote on February 27 and March 3.

The poll panel said the counting of votes will take place on March 10. (ANI)

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