'Won't hesitate to ban': EC says 'laxity' in following Covid norms during rallies
The Election Commission of India (ECI) has issued a warning to political parties over their 'laxity' in following coronavirus disease (Covid-19) guidelines during campaigning. The warning comes ahead of the fourth phase of voting in West Bengal on Saturday and after the completion of canvassing and polling in three states and one Union territory.
The ECI wrote to all state and national parties on Friday and said it takes "serious view of the laxity in maintaining norms, particularly not wearing masks by political leaders on stage" and it could ban them from holding rallies in case the situation does not improve.
"It is clarified that the Commission, in cases of breach, will not hesitate in banning public meetings, rallies etc. of the defaulting candidates/star campaigners/political leaders without any further reference," the ECI said.
Taking note of the rising number of Covid-19 cases in the country, the poll body reiterated that the use of face masks, hand sanitisers, and thermal scanners etc was mandatory at all election-related events.
“It is widely known that in 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, etc, have been flouted...,” Friday’s letter said, repeating protocols issued ahead of the Bihar assembly polls and by-elections across states through October and November last year, the first electoral exercise to be conducted after the outbreak in March.
India registered a record single-day spike of 1,31,968 new Covid-19 cases on Friday, pushing its total infection tally to 1,30,60,542 and the toll went up to 1,67,642 with 780 more fatalities in a day, highest since October 18, the health ministry data showed.
To curb the infection's spread, several states have imposed new curbs, including night curfews in cities such as Delhi, Mumbai and Bengaluru.