Hindustan Times ST (Jaipur)

EC bars poll victory rallies as cases surge

- Deeksha Bhardwaj letters@hindustant­imes.com

NEW DELHI: The Election Commission (EC), which has drawn flak for letting political parties flout Covid-19 protocols, on Tuesday banned victory rallies on or after the counting of votes in five states and a Union Territory on May 2 besides barring over two people from accompanyi­ng winning candidates for receiving their election certificat­es. The ban came a day after the Madras high court blamed the EC for the second pandemic wave, which has overwhelme­d hospitals, and said officials of the poll watchdog should probably be tried on murder charges for allowing the violation of the norms.

“No victory procession after the counting on 2.5.2021 [May 2, 2021] shall be permissibl­e. Not more than two persons shall be allowed to accompany the winning candidate or his/her authorized representa­tive receive the certificat­e of election from the Returning Officer concerned,” the EC said, as it detailed new protocols on the counting day in view of the Covid-19 situation.

The poll watchdog cited the broad guidelines issued on August 21 last year to conduct elections during Covid-19 and added they were framed after receiving suggestion­s from political parties. It added the guidelines for political parties on election campaigns and meetings were reviewed based on suggestion­s received from chief electoral officers. The EC said the

ELECTION COMMISSION

Covid-19 related provisions for counting of votes on May 2 are to be in accordance with the broad guidelines of August 2020, with the addition of the new protocols issued on Tuesday.

The poll watchdog has faced criticism for allowing political parties to hold big rallies, where most participan­ts, including political leaders, have been seen in attendance without masks. It issued guidelines reiteratin­g the importance of adhering to Covid-19 protocol but did not act against any leader or party for flouting them.

The EC has also faced criticism for holding the West Bengal assembly elections across eight phases, and for refusing to combine later phases even as the health crisis escalated and triggered a shortage of critical resources such as medical oxygen needed to save lives.

The daily Covid-19 cases in the country have risen by over 400% since April 1 and deaths by over

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