No complaint filed with poll panel

R Dutta Choudhury

GUWAHATI, March 24: Though the Election Commission of India (ECI) had issued broad guidelines for holding of elections amid the COVID-19 pandemic, no political party or candidate is following these norms and interestingly, no person has registered any complaint on the issue with the poll panel.

The political parties and candidates are blatantly violating the guidelines of the EC right from filing of nomination papers to campaigning. The EC had also given the option to fill up the nomination forms online and the guidelines clearly stated that nomination forms would be available online.

The candidates can fill it up online and its print can be taken out to be submitted before the returning officer. The affidavits may also be filed online on the website of the CEO and DEO, and after its notarization, can be submitted along with the nomination before the returning officer. The candidates were also allowed to deposit the security money online.

The poll panel allowed only two persons to accompany the candidates and limited the number of vehicles to two. However, these guidelines were blatantly violated by the candidates as they preferred to display a show of strength by coming to the offices of returning officers accompanied by thousands of supporters.

The EC issued a series of guidelines for campaigning but no candidate or party bothered to adhere to the norms. As per the guidelines, only five persons, including the candidate, was allowed to go for door to door campaigning, but in most cases, the candidates or leaders of the political parties are accompanied by a large number of people.

On road shows, the EC guidelines said that the convoy of vehicles should be broken after every five vehicles and the interval between two sets of convoy vehicles should be at least half an hour. But across the State, the political leaders are holding road shows violating the guidelines.

The EC also gave a series of guidelines on holding of election rallies. The EC said the public gatherings and rallies should be held by strictly following the COVID-19 guidelines. In all the identified grounds, the district election officers should put markers to ensure that all those who attend the rallies strictly adhere to social distancing norms.

As per the guidelines, nodal district health officers should also be involved in the process to ensure that the COVID-19 protocol is followed. The district election officer and the district superintendent of police should ensure that the number of attendees does not exceed the limit prescribed by the State disaster management authority for public gatherings.

However, it is seen that only in a few public meetings, the social distancing norms were maintained only on the dais and not among the crowd. Moreover, majority of the people attending the rallies and road shows are not wearing face masks in clear violation of the instructions issued by the administration.