The Chief Election Commissioner (CEC) of India Sushil Chandra on Thursday, 30 December, announced that all political parties have told the election commission that the upcoming Uttar Pradesh Assembly elections should be conducted on time, following COVID-19 protocols.
According to an NDTV report, the CEC said that the violation of distancing norms there are the responsibility of the state government and the Election Commission will take over only after poll dates are announced.
He said, "our responsibility begins after poll dates are announced and the model code of conduct kicks in. Till then, the responsibility lies with the state government and they would act as per recommendations of the state disaster management authority."
"Representatives of all political parties met us and told us that elections should be conducted on time following all COVID-19 protocols," CEC Chandra said at a press conference on Thursday.
"All parties have raised the issue of rallies being held in violation of COVID protocols. and asked for restrictions to be put in place," he added.
The CEC's statement comes amid widespread concern over the rise of COVID-19 cases in India, and the spread of the highly-transmissible Omicron variant.
The Allahabad High Court had on 23 December urged the Election Commission to postpone the upcoming Uttar Pradesh Assembly elections by one-two months. "If rallies are not stopped, results will be worse than the second wave," the court had said.
VVPATS at All Polling Booths, Fully Vaxed Staff: CEC
During the Assembly elections, voting will continue from 8 am to 6 pm on the date of polling, CEC Chandra said on Thursday.
The staff deployed at the voting booths across the state will be fully-vaccinated, he stated.
He said that directions have been issued to ensure that every voter has at least one dose of the vaccine. He later clarified to journalists that nobody would be barred from voting if they are not vaccinated.
“VVPATs will be installed at all voting booths. Live webcasting facilities will be available at around 1 lakh voting booths to ensure transparency in election process.”
For those unable to visit the polling booths – people above 80 years of age, persons with disabilities, and COVID-affected people – the Election Commission will take their vote from their doorstep.
Uttar Pradesh Assembly elections, slated to be held in February-March 2022, will see parties contesting for 403 seats.
The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), which presently rules the state, had won the 2017 elections with an overwhelming majority of 312 seats. While the SP had won 47 seats and Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) 19, the Congress had won only seven seats.