2021 West Bengal & Tamil Nadu Elections: Election Commission Bans Victory Rallies

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In a move that may just be slightly too late, the Election Commission has banned any victory rallies from taking place after the election results are announced on May 2nd. The Election Commission reeled under heavy pressure from the Madras & Calcutta High Courts who have been pressurising the Election Commission to ban all political gatherings due to the worsening state of the pandemic in the country. India has been breaking its own records every day in posting the highest number of positive Covid-19 cases over 24 hours. At the current rate, India is expected to report 4 lakh positive cases in a single day by the end of the first week of May.

The Election Commission (EC) which decided to go ahead with the final and eight phase of the West Bengal Assembly elections to be held on 29th April. The Madras and Calcutta High Courts have reprimanded the EC due to their lack of action regarding political parties holding public rallies and campaigns during trying times of the pandemic with no regard for social distancing or following Covid-19 safety regulations. After the reprimands, the EC released an order stating – “No victory procession after the counting on 2.5.2021 shall be permissible. Not more than two persons shall be allowed to accompany the winning candidate or his/her authorised representative receive the certificate of election from the returning officer concerned.”

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Voting has recently concluded in the states of Assam, Kerala, Tamil Nadu and Union Territory of Puducherry. The results of the elections in the above states and UT along with the election results of West Bengal assembly elections are expected to be announced 2nd May onwards.

The Madras High Court on Monday had some sharp comments to dish out towards the Election Commission. The Madras High Court bench said the EC should be trialled on criminal charges as they are putting lives of the citizens at risk during the pandemic. The Madras High Court also directed the EC to submit a detailed report of the procedure and steps taken to maintain Covid-19 protocols else it will suspend the counting process if need be. The EC has been given until 30th April to submit a detailed report on the same to the Madras High Court.

A very sharp rise in positive Covid-19 cases has been observed in poll bound states. The number of cases in Kerala had shot up by 130%, 215% in Assam, 86% in West Bengal and 47% rise in Uttar Pradesh following the aftermath of the Kumbh Mela. All major political parties have been throwing caution to the wind during the crisis caused by the pandemic, at a time when patients are struggling to find beds and oxygen cylinders, the big wigs of political parties are out in the public carrying out public rallies all the while not wearing masks or following Covid-19 protocols themselves. In spite of witnessing these scenes of carelessness, the EC had opted to stay silent on the issue, raised by the High Courts and media. While Covid-19 protocols were left in the dust, thousands of people gathered in hordes to watch and attend the rallies of these leaders. One wonders if the EC could have taken preventive measures which may have helped in keeping the count of infected persons in the poll-bound states to a minimum.

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