The EC (Election Commission) issued fresh warnings to political parties contesting in elections saying if COVID-19 rules are not followed, the EC will ban candidates from holding rallies. The warning may have come at a strange time, given how the voting have already ended in 3 states. Only West Bengal remains a poll-bound state where the 4th phase of the 8-phased poll started today.

The Election Commission sent letters to political parties in which it stated that it will not shy away from banning all the campaign rallies if people are not seen adhering to COVID-19 safety protocols during the last phases of the West Bengal elections. The EC reinstated the COVID-19 safety guidelines on holding political meetings and campaigns during the pandemic and sent a letter to all the recognized political parties in the nation.

As reported by NDTV, the EC in its notice wrote, “Instances of election meetings/campaigns have come to the notice of the Commission, where norms of social distancing, wearing of masks etc. have been flouted in disregard to the Commission’s […] guidelines. Instances of star campaigners/political leaders/candidates not observing COVID protocols including non-wearing of masks themselves at stage or while campaigning have come to notice. By doing so, the political parties and candidates are exposing themselves as well as the public attending such election meetings to the grave danger of infection.”

The EC in its letter further said that if a political party is found guilty of breach of such guidelines, their public meetings, rallies will be banned by the EC without any reference. The EC in the letter also highlighted instances where candidates and star campaigners are not seen adhering to COVID-19 safety laws such as wearing masks or maintaining distance. The EC said that political leaders and candidates should dutifully adhere to such laws and set an example for the public by doing so.

The letter read, “It is advisable that political leaders/candidates who have the incumbent duty to control spread of COVID, demonstrate by their personal example and nudge all supporters in the beginning rally, meetings and campaign itself to wear masks, use sanitisers and put in place crowd control measures as per social distancing norms.”

The EC in the letter sought cooperation from political parties that are campaigning in poll bound West Bengal. “The Commission seeks the fullest cooperation from the political parties and candidates of the strictest observance of the protocols so that all the Covid guidelines are adhered to by all the participants including organizers in the electioneering,” it stated in the letter directed to the parties.

It should be noted that since months, election rallies led by political party leaders such as PM Modi, Union Home Minister Amit Shah, TMC leader Mamata Banerjee, Congress leader Rahul Gandhi has been pointed by the general masses as a reason of the COVID-19 case surge.

The situation is especially dire in West Bengal where COVID-19 cases have been on an all-time high on one end, while political parties violate all COVID-19 safety norms and carry out their campaigning. This week, a doctors’ body from West Bengal wrote a letter to the EC to look at the rampant violations the political parties are making. In the letter, the doctors’ body said that the political parties during campaigning are in a complete disregard of all the safety protocols that should be adhered to during the pandemic.

The hard worded letter stated, “If stringent measures are not implemented, including barring of non-compliant campaigners and political parties, we are going to face untold miseries.”

The health-care professionals in West Bengal on one hand are raising calls to the EC about the COVID-19 rule violations due to which the cases are on rise. On the other hand, TMC and BJP have both claimed that they are working towards raising more awareness.

TMC member Saugata Roy although admitted that the situation is dire, he also made a debatable comment saying, “Our party leaders are working overtime all over the state. We are trying our best to maintain health protocols but it is not easy to manage common people. They have to be conscious.”

Meanwhile Samik Bhattacharya, who’s the spokesperson of BJP’s Bengal arm gave an equally whimsical comment recently saying, “People have become complacent. The BJP has planned a fresh awareness campaign on Covid-19 protocols.”