The Election Commission of India on Thursday set up a core committee to identify “learning, experiences and shortcomings” from the 2021 Assembly Elections as well as the Bihar polls last year, which took place amid the coronavirus crisis.
The secretary general of the Election Commission will head the committee, which will submit its report within a month. The committee’s members will include chief electoral officers of the states where the elections were held, and special observers.
The core committee is supposed to identify gaps in the Election Commission’s regulatory regime and allow it to enforce directions, including Covid-19 protocols, in a more effective manner. “Recommendations of the Core Committee will help the Commission to chalk out way forward for forthcoming polls in future,” the Election Commission said.
The new committee will also look for any gaps in the implementation of the Model Code of Conduct or the regulatory regime leading to “avoidance/ non-compliance by the Candidates/ Political parties’ stakeholders”.
The Election Commission also tasked the committee with identifying measures to strengthen expenditure management, shortcomings in the framework to protect electoral machinery from possibility of reprisal after polls and reviewing matters related to electoral rolls.
“The Committee has also been asked to collate, analyse experiences, best practices across States/UT and suggest way forward and further reforms required,” the Election Commission said.
The committee, while finalising its recommendations, will also take inputs from police, expenditure and health officers, the Election Commission said.
“The Committee will also examine the recommendations of the nine Working Groups (which were set up post Lok Sabha Elections, 2019) in light of experiences in the poll gone States,” the poll panel added. “The Commission had formed Nine working groups of CEOs and Commission Officers covering various facets of election process including Electoral Roll issues, Polling Stations management, MCC, Voting processes and Materials inventory, Capacity Building, IT applications, Expenditure Management, SVEEP [ Systematic Voters’ Education and Electoral Participation] and Media interface as also Electoral Reforms.”
Assembly elections in West Bengal, Tamil Nadu, Kerala, Puducherry and Assam were held even as the second wave of the pandemic intensified in India. Before the elections, several huge rallies took place, where Covid-related protocols were violated.
The Allahabad High Court had held that the Election Commission, higher courts and the government had failed to “fathom the disastrous consequences” of holding elections during the second wave. Earlier, the Madras High Court , in an oral observation, had said that the Election Commission was “singularly responsible” for the second wave and should be booked on charges of murder.
India has reported more than 3 lakh cases a day every day for the past few weeks, since April 22. On May 1, it hit a new record by crossing the 4-lakh mark, the highest single-day tally by any country in the world. This was surpassed on May 7, when India recorded 4.14 lakh daily cases. Thousands have died every day, but reports allege that the government is severely undercounting Covid-19 deaths.
The massive second wave of the coronavirus has overwhelmed the health infrastructure in India. Several states are grappling with acute shortages of oxygen, vaccines and drugs.
Many people have died awaiting a bed or oxygen, while several morgues and crematoriums have surpassed their capacity. Besides this, the surge in infections has coincided with a drop in vaccinations because of supply and delivery problems. Multiple states were forced to stop or limit their inoculation programme due to acute shortages of doses.