The Election Commission of India (ECI) on Saturday announced a set of guidelines to be followed by political parties while campaigning for the upcoming bypolls in two states amid coronavirus pandemic. The poll body has announced that bypoll to the Bhabanipur assembly seat in West Bengal, from where Chief Minister and TMC leader Mamata Banerjee plans to contest, would be held on September 30.
Polling for three “deferred adjourned" elections — in two assembly seats of West Bengal and one of Odisha — will also be held on September 30.
Elections in these seats — Samserganj and Jangirpur in West Bengal and Pipli in Odisha — could not be held due to various reasons, including the death of candidates during electioneering earlier this year. Counting on all four seats will take place on October 3. EC said it has kept “much stricter" norms as an abundant caution to safeguard from the COVID-19 pandemic. The Bhabanipur bypoll will allow Mamata Banerjee a chance to become a member of the state legislative assembly.
Restrictions on activities during elections due to Covid-19:
1. Nominations: During pre and post nomination procession, public meeting prohibited/only three vehicles permitted within a periphery of 100 meters of Returning Officer’s office. No procession for nomination shall be permitted.
2. Indoor campaigning: 30 per cent of allowed capacity or 200 persons, whichever is less. A register will be maintained to count the number of people attending the meeting.
3. Outdoor campaigning: With 50 per cent of capacity (as per Covid-19 guidelines) or 1,000 in the case of star campaigners and 50 per cent of the capacity or 500 in all other cases. In either case, the allowed number is whichever is less. The entire area will be cordoned off and will be guarded by the police. The count of people entering the ground will be monitored. Expenditure for the cordoning/barricading will be borne by the candidate/party. Only those grounds which are cordoned/barricaded completely will be used for rallies.
4. Star campaigners: Number of star campaigners restricted to 20 for these bye-elections for National/State recognised parties and 10 for un-recognised registered parties in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic.
5. Road show: No roadshow shall be allowed and no motor/bike/cycle rallies to be allowed.
6. Street corner meeting: Maximum 50 persons shall be allowed (subject to availability of space and compliance to Covid-19 guidelines).
7. Door to door campaign: Door to door campaign with five persons including candidates/their representatives.
8. Campaign through video van: Not more than 50 audiences shall be allowed in one cluster point subject to availability of space and compliance to Covid-19 guidelines.
9. Use of vehicles for campaign: Total vehicles allowed for a candidate/political party (excluding star campaigner)- 20 maximum number of persons allowed per vehicle 50 per cent of the capacity.
10. Silence period: The silence period is 72 hours before the end of poll.
11. Poll day activities: Maximum two vehicles with three persons each shall be allowed. Security as per the applicable extant guidelines. And poll day activity on polling station as per ECI guidelines.
12. Counting day: DEOs to take appropriate measures to prevent crowding. Social distancing and other Covid-19 safety protocols to be strictly adhered to at all the times during counting.
13. Procession after counting: Not allowed.