GUWAHATI, March 20 - With the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic disrupting normal life across the globe, the Assam State Election Commission today deferred the April 4 polls to the Bodoland Territorial Council. �The Government of India, as well as the Government of Assam, has issued several advisories relating to COVID-19 pandemic and these measures are being progressively strengthened and amplified. Several political parties, organisations, Members of Parliament and citizens have submitted memorandum and requests to the Commission to defer the BTC Election, 2020, in view of increasing spread and threat of COVID-19 pandemic,� said Alok Kumar, State Election Commissioner.
He said that the State government, through a letter today, brought to the notice of the Commission the �requirement of putting restrictions on movement of people, mass gathering and maintaining social distancing� in order to prevent spread of coronavirus.
�Further, the government has requested the Commission to consider postponing the BTC election scheduled to be held on April 4.
�Restrictions imposed in the State, including in the BTAD areas, will affect conduct of free-and-fair elections. Not all political parties and candidates can afford to do publicity through electronic and print media alone. Considering all these aspects the Assam State Election Commission has decided to defer the remaining phases of BTC Election, 2020, after March 21,� said Kumar.
He said that the process of filing of nominations is over and scrutiny of nomination papers was carried out yesterday.
�There is time till 3 pm tomorrow for withdrawal of candidature. After the time for withdrawal is over a list of contesting candidates will be published. Regular campaigning was supposed to have started from March 22. Now we have deferred the remaining phases post publication of the list of contesting candidates. We will later announce a new schedule for the remaining phases � campaigning, polling, re-polling and counting � after watching the situation,� said Kumar.
The Model Code of Conduct will, however, continue to be in force for the time being and will be reviewed at the time of issue of notification of remaining phases of the election process.
�At this moment it is difficult to say how long the deferment will last. The problem is such that it is very difficult to anticipate a particular date,� he added.