Election Commission warns parties as leaders flout COVID norms

New Delhi: Amid rising coronavirus cases, candidates and star campaigners can be banned from holding campaign rallies if COVID-19 safety rules are not followed, the Election Commission said in a fresh warning on Friday

In a letter to leaders of all recognised political parties, the poll panel said, “It is widely known that in the recent weeks, COVID cases are being reported in larger numbers. However, instances of election meetings/campaigns have come to the notice of the commission, where norms of social distancing, wearing of masks have been flouted in disregard to the commission’s guidelines.”

The letter pointed out instances of star campaigners and political leaders or candidates not observing COVID-19 protocols, “including non-wearing of masks themselves at stage or while campaigning”.

“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 the infection,” the letter said.

In cases of breach, the Election Commission (EC) said it will “not hesitate in banning public meetings, rallies of defaulting candidates, star campaigners or political leaders without any further reference.”

The poll panel said it has taken “serious view of the laxity” in following norms.

“Political parties, leaders, campaigners, candidates, existing or aspiring policy makers are expected to be torch-bearers for the campaign against COVID and hence, are expected to not only set an example by maintaining social distancing, wearing masks and following prescribed protocols but also by exhorting all the local formations who attend programmes to follow COVID protocols,” the letter read.

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