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Large Crowds, No Masks: Parties Flout Covid Norms In Bihar Campaign, EC Takes Note

The EC advisory came a day after Prime Minister Narendra Modi's address to the nation, calling on people to remain careful.
Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar addresses an election meeting at Masauhri on October 20 (left). RJD's Tejashwi Yadav during an election campaign rally at Masaurhi on October 21 (right).
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Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar addresses an election meeting at Masauhri on October 20 (left). RJD's Tejashwi Yadav during an election campaign rally at Masaurhi on October 21 (right).

After poll rallies in Bihar saw massive crowds and campaigners addressing public meetings without wearing masks, the Election Commission on Wednesday issued an advisory to all recognised political parties.

In the advisory, the poll panel said chief electoral officers and the district machinery would be expected to invoke appropriate and relevant penal provisions against candidates concerned as well as organisers responsible for such violations, according to PTI.

The EC advisory came a day after Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s address, the seventh since the pandemic began. Modi had called on people to remain careful as the “virus was still around”.

The poll panel said: “It has come to the notice of the Commission instances of such public meetings where large crowds assembled in utter violation of social distancing, and the political leaders and campaigners addressing the gatherings without wearing masks in complete disregard of the guidelines and instructions issued by the Election Commission.”

By not following the norms, the poll body said that the political parties and candidates are not only flouting its guidelines “with impunity but exposing themselves as well as the public attending the rallies or meetings to the danger of infection during the pandemic”.

As the most important stakeholders in the electoral process, the parties are duty-bound to observe the norms determined by the Commission for electioneering, it noted.

Non-compliance of instructions during the period of public interface will attract actions as per provisions of the Disaster Management Act, 2005, besides invocation of the provisions of the Indian Penal Code and other legal provisions, the EC warned referring to its guidelines issued in August, according to PTI.

“The Commission has taken a serious view of the laxity on the part of political parties and candidates, on the ground, in terms of maintaining crowd discipline, and hereby reiterates and further advises them to demonstrate utmost vigil and care during electioneering,” the advisory said.

Assembly polls in Bihar will be held in three phases with voting on October 28, November 3 and November 7. Counting of votes will take place on November 10.

Here are a few pictures and videos from political rallies in Bihar:

BJP president JP Nadda shared pictures from his political meeting in Bihar on Tuesday.

Chief Minister Nitish Kumar also addressed rallies with huge crowds.

Tejashwi Yadav, the Chief Ministerial candidate of the Opposition alliance, also shared a video of the crowd at his rally in Goh Assembly.

LJP chief Chirag Paswan hit the campaign trail on Wednesday, starting with Paliganj. He also held a roadshow attended by a large number of people in Paliganj, according to Hindustan Times.

He then visited Jehanabad, Atri and Nawada by helicopter, the report added. Paswan shared videos from his campaign on Twitter:

Election Commission’s broad guidelines, released in August, for conducting polls during the Covid-19 pandemic said public meetings and rallies may be conducted subject to adherence to Covid guidelines.

The district election officer should identify in advance dedicated grounds for public gatherings with clearly marked entry and exit points, the guidelines said and added that in all such identified grounds, the district election officer should put markers in advance to ensure social distancing norms.

The district election officer and 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, the EC had said.

(With PTI inputs)

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This article exists as part of the online archive for HuffPost India, which closed in 2020. Some features are no longer enabled. If you have questions or concerns about this article, please contact indiasupport@huffpost.com.