Will ban events of leaders who flout rules, warns letter.
The Election Commission on Friday reminded recognised national and State parties to follow COVID-19 protocols for campaigning, after finding instances during the ongoing Assembly elections where social distancing and mask wearing norms were flouted.
In a letter to the political parties, the EC reiterated its August 2020 guidelines for campaigning during the pandemic. It said it reiterated the same when it notified the Assam, West Bengal, Puducherry, Tamil Nadu and Kerala elections in February.
“It is widely known that in the 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 in disregard to the Commission’s above guidelines. Instances of star campaigners/ political leaders/ candidates not observing COVID protocols including non-wearing of masks themselves at stage or while campaigning have come to notice. By doing so, the political parties and candidates are exposing themselves as well as the public attending such election meetings to the grave danger of infection,” the EC wrote.
The EC added that it had “taken a serious view of the laxity” and expected political parties and leaders to be torch bearers against COVID-19.
“It is advisable that political leaders/candidates who have incumbent duty to control spread of Covid, demonstrate by their personal example and nudge all supporters in the beginning of rally, meetings, campaign itself to wear masks, use sanitizers and put in place crowd control measures as per social distancing norms. 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 EC wrote.