The Election Commission of India (ECI) has extended the ban on physical rallies, padayatras, car and bike rallies, and roadshows in poll-bound states until January 31.
Public gatherings are allowed by political parties and candidates in open spaces with a maximum of 500 persons with up to 50 percent of the ground capacity for the campaign.
While physical rallies, padayatras, roadshows, and car or bike rallies will not be permitted in constituencies going to polls between Phases 3 and 7, in-person public meetings with a maximum of 500 people or up to 50 percent of the ground capacity or the existing SDMA limit, whichever is less, maybe held between January 28 and February 8, in 58 assembly constituencies in UP going to polls in the first phase, and between February 1 and 12 in 55 assembly seats in UP in the second phase.
Roadshows and padyatras have been prohibited until January 31, even in constituencies voting in the first two phases.
Election Commission sources said to The Hindu, that the Covid situation is expected to turn around and vaccination coverage is likely to reach satisfactory levels by January 31, when the panel will review campaign restrictions next. If the Covid situation eases, physical meetings with a similar cap may eventually be allowed across all phases.
The panel, which met virtually with the Union health secretary and the respective state chief secretaries and chief electoral officers to assess the COVID-19 situation in the five poll-bound states, also permitted video vans for open-air publicity.
According to a senior official, because candidates would be finalised by January 27, the deadline for withdrawal of nominations, it was felt that they should be given a fair chance to directly reach out to voters, reported The Hindu.
While allowing physical meetings, the EC considered two factors: vaccination coverage in poll-bound states, which has recently shown significant improvement, and hospitalisation rates, which have remained stable.
According to the data placed before the EC, first dose vaccination coverage now stands at 100 percent in Goa, 99 percent in Uttarakhand, 97 percent in UP, 81 percent in Punjab, and 58 percent in Manipur; while the second dose coverage is at 98 percent in Goa, 85 percent in Uttarakhand, 64 percent in UP, 52 percent in Punjab and 44 percent in Manipur.
Hospitalisation rate is 1.4 percent in UP, 1.7 percent in Uttarakhand, 1.7 percent in Punjab, 3.4 percent in Goa, and 8.8 percent in Manipur, which reflects that people are recovering “without adding much pressure on authorities”, an ECI official said.
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