The Election Commission on Tuesday banned all victory processions by political parties on May 2, when the results of Assembly elections will be announced.
The results for Assembly elections in the four states of West Bengal, Tamil Nadu, Assam and Kerala and the Union Territory of Puducherry will be out on May 2. West Bengal will vote for the last of its eight rounds of polling on April 29.
“Not more than two persons shall be allowed to accompany the winning candidate or his/her authorized representative [to] receive the certificate of election from the Returning Officer concerned,” the poll panel added.
The decision came amid criticism of the poll body for not doing enough to curb election rallies and other forms of campaign even as the second wave of coronavirus led to unprecedented levels of cases in the country.
The Madras High Court on Monday said that the EC should be booked on charges of murder for allowing rallies to continue in poll-bound states amid the prevailing pandemic situation.
Holding the EC “singularly responsible” for the second wave of the pandemic, the court warned that it will stop the counting of votes on May 2 if the poll panel does not put in place a blueprint of how it planned to ensure all protocols are followed that day. West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee lauded the Madras High Court’s observations.
Elections amid pandemic
While the country battled with a record surge in Covid-19 cases for days during the second wave and hospitals ran out of beds and oxygen, politicians were holding election rallies attended by thousands with little evidence of masks or physical distancing.
In West Bengal, Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Union Home Minister Amit Shah held gigantic rallies until last week, when the Election Commission finally banned all roadshows and limited gatherings to 500 people amid the worsening situation.
After the fourth round of elections in West Bengal, the Communist Party of India (Marxist) had announced that it will not organise big election rallies for the remaining phases. Congress MP Rahul Gandhi cancelled his rallies in West Bengal and Banerjee also decided to hold smaller election meetings. Shah, however, said that it was not right to link the surge in coronavirus cases in India to elections.
However on Tuesday, Bharatiya Janata Party President Jagat Prakash Nadda welcomed the poll panel’s decision and urged his party members to follow the directive.
“I have directed all state units of BJP to strictly adhere to this decision,” he tweeted in Hindi. “All our functionaries will remain engaged with all their zeal in this hour of crisis.”