The Election Commission of India (ECI) today extended the ban on public rallies and roadshows in the five poll-bound states by a week — till 22 January. However, the ECI granted some relaxation to political parties in the states of Goa, Manipur, Punjab, Uttar Pradesh and Uttarakhand, where assembly elections will be held across seven phases from 10 February till 7 March.
“ECI extends ban on physical rallies and roadshows until 22 January 2022. ECI grants relaxation for the 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 (State Disaster Management Authority),” the Election Commission informed on its official Twitter handle.
“ECI directs political parties to adhere to the provisions of MCC (Model Code of Conduct) and the broad guidelines of Covid. ECI directs State/ District Administration to ensure compliance of all instructions related to MCC and Covid,” it said further.
On 8 January, while announcing the schedule for assembly polls in the five states, the ECI had laid out a host of restrictions due to a rise in the country’s daily Covid-19 infections, as well as in individual states. These included the ban on public rallies, roadshows, padayatra (foot march), or procession of any kind, until 15 January.
While the Sushil Chandra-headed body allowed parties to hold virtual programmes, it also said that a call on physical gatherings will be taken upon the expiration of the said seven-day period.
Last year, the ECI came under fire for holding assembly elections in four states and the Union territory of Puducherry in the middle of the devastating second wave of Covid-19.
Meanwhile, of the five poll-bound states, Uttar Pradesh, with 403 constituencies, is the only state where polling will take place across all seven phases. Manipur (60) will vote on 27 February and 3 March while electors in Punjab (117), Uttarakhand (70) and Goa (40) will cast their vote in a single phase on 14 February.
The counting of votes for all 690 assembly constituencies will be held on 10 March.