Opposition parties in Bihar on Friday urged the Election Commission to assure voters that the upcoming state Assembly elections will not become a coronavirus “super-spreader” event, PTI reported. The Congress, Rashtriya Janata Dal, Communist Party of India, Communist Party of India (Marxist), Communist Party of India (Marxist-Leninist) and Hindustan Awami Morcha submitted a memorandum to the poll panel about the coronavirus situation in the state.
“The Covid-19 pandemic has affected the state badly,” the memorandum said. “In the capital city, Patna, as many as 89 containment zones and over 16 districts have been put under lockdown for another fifteen days with effect from 16th July.” The parties asked the Election Commission how it planned to impose physical distancing in a state with an electorate of 7.5 crore.
The parties said that there are probably many asymptomatic or untested individuals in the state who are a risk to others during the voting process, the Hindustan Times reported. The letter also said that it is projected that by October-November (the expected date of the elections), the number of infections in Bihar will cross 10 lakh.
“People need explicit clarity so that wholesome participation of majority of voters is not adversely impacted,” the memorandum added. “People also expect the commission to ensure and satisfy the people that entire poll exercise does not become a super-spreader event.”
On Thursday, the Election Commission decided not to extend the postal ballot facility to citizens between the ages of 65 and 80 for the upcoming Bihar Assembly elections. The panel cited logistical and manpower constraints as well as safety protocols to justify its decision. But the commission added that optional postal ballot will be available for people over 80 years of age, disabled voters, electors engaged in essential services and voters who are coronavirus positive or suspects, living in quarantine.
As of Friday afternoon, Bihar has recorded 21,764 cases of the coronavirus, including 197 deaths, according to the Union Ministry of Health and Family Welfare.