Uttar Pradesh Election: An Hour Extra Voting Time For UP To Keep Social Distancing: Top Poll Body

Uttar Pradesh Election: An Hour Extra Voting Time For UP To Keep Social Distancing: Top Poll Body

New Delhi:

Voters in Uttar Pradesh will have an extra hour to cast their ballot to ensure social distancing for COVID-19 is maintained, Chief Election Commissioner Sushil Chandra said Thursday, as he confirmed that Assembly polls for UP and four other states will proceed as planned.

“Commission has decided to increase poling time by an hour – across the state – to ensure voting with social distancing,” Mr Chandra said, bringing back the one-hour extension ordered ahead of elections in Bengal, Assam and three other states earlier this year.

UP, Punjab, Manipur, Goa, and Uttarakhand will vote for a new government in February-March, even as the country stares down the barrel of a potential third wave of Covid cases fuelled, in no small measure, by the Omicron variant.

Mr Chandra today also said that all political parties in UP – including the ruling BJP and primary opposition outfits Samajwadi Party and the Congress – were in favour of holding the election.

All parties offered suggestions on how to minimise the spread of cases – something that will happen as each holds massive rallies to campaign for their candidates.

At least two of the states that held Assembly elections this year – Bengal and Assam – saw a spurt in Covid cases following campaign rallies led by senior political leaders, attended by senior political leaders including Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee.

The subject of election rallies in UP – India’s most populous state and one with less-than-stellar healthcare infrastructure – has already been red-flagged with parties taking shots at each other.

On this subject Mr Chandra said: “We have discussed all this with the (Union) Health Secretary and other officials, and we will definitely issue detailed guidelines once elections are announced.”

Asked who would control mass gatherings until then, he said the commission’s responsibility only kicked in once the MCC (model code of conduct) is enforced (when dates are announced).” Right now, the responsibility is with the govt and the state’s disaster management agency,” he said.

Assam Press