India Election Commission Extends Covid Rules for State Polls
(Bloomberg) -- Restrictions on election campaigns across five poll-bound Indian states will stay in place till the end of this month as daily infections have crossed the 300,000 mark, the federal election commission said.
No road show, rallies and procession shall be allowed till Jan. 31, according to a statement issued by the commission on Saturday. The commission has also raised the limit on door-to-door campaign to 10 people from 5, excluding security personnel.
The states heading to elections include Uttar Pradesh, the country’s most populous state with half as many people as the entire European Union. The states of Manipur, Goa, Uttarakhand, Punjab will also be electing new legislatures in February and early March.
The election commission had restricted roadshows and campaign rallies when it announced election dates earlier this month.
Elections in India, especially in states as large as Uttar Pradesh, are huge logistical exercises. Tens of thousands of security personnel and election officials spread out across the region, and voting is staggered given the size of its population. They draw huge crowds to campaign rallies, where Covid protocols are largely ignored.
India’s ferocious second wave last year, which saw cases cross 400,000 a day at its peak, was preceded by elections in five states, and a massive Hindu religious gathering on the banks of the Ganges river.
However, even while the election commission has barred poll rallies, it has allowed indoor political gatherings of up to 300 people.
An Indian court in December had urged the constitutional body and Prime Minister Narendra Modi to postpone polls citing the dangers of crowds at a time of soaring infections.
Across India, state governments have imposed a series of restrictions as infection numbers have soared, including shutting down cinema halls and restaurants and ordering schools to operate online. India recorded 337,704 daily infections on Saturday, taking the total number of cases from the start of the pandemic to 38.9 million.
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