The Election Commission of India on Wednesday said the 2021 Assembly elections in Assam will be over by May 4, before the Central Board of Secondary Education exams in the state start, reported PTI. The examinations for Classes 10 and 12 are scheduled between May 4 and June 10.

Chief Election Commissioner Sunil Arora also announced that those excluded from Assam’s National Register of Citizens will be eligible to vote in this year’s elections since their names are already there on the voters’ list. The announcements were made during a three-day visit of the full bench of the commission to the state to review poll preparedness.

“The home ministry notification of 29 August, 2019 clearly states that non-inclusion of a person’s name in NRC does not by itself amount to him/her being declared a foreigner,” Arora said at a press conference in Guwahati. “By implication such persons remain on the voter list and shall be eligible to vote until a decision is taken by the concerned tribunal.”

More than 19 lakh people were left out of the final list of the updated citizens’ database that was published on August 31. The number of people left out comprise around 6% of Assam’s entire population, two times the number of Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh, and the population of Nagaland. Some of those left out have been appealing against their exclusion in foreigners’ tribunals. As many as 3.3 crore people had applied for the exercise.

During Wednesday’s press conference, Arora said the Election Commission also took into consideration Assam’s Rongali Bihu festival in April while fixing the election dates. “We have already taken the festival into consideration before coming here for the review meetings,” he added. “The commission is aware of the festivals held in the states.”

Arora said the emphasis would be on conducting the polling exercise in a manner that does not aggravate the coronavirus situation in the state. Assam has recorded 2,13,084 infections and 1,075 deaths as of Wednesday, according to the health ministry data.

“In view of Covid social distancing norms, the [Election] Commission has specifically revisited some existing norms,” he added, according to ANI. “As a result, the maximum number of electors at a polling station has been reduced from 1,500 to 1,000. Accordingly for Assam, the number of polling stations would go up by about 5,000 and are likely to be more than 33,000 for forthcoming elections.”

He urged the state election authorities and the people to ensure “fair, peaceful and Covid safe polls”.

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