Polls important or health of people?

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Our political parties have no relation with health of the people at all. Otherwise, they would have not suggested to conduct five states polls amid increasing Omicron threat and rapidly spreading Corona virus. The elections commission organized a meeting of all parties to know their opinion about postponing elections in five states including Uttar Pradesh as per suggestion by Alahabad high court and all parties opposed the move to postpone polls. This shows, our political parties have not any concern about people’s health. Everybody knows that, in any elections, there will be rallies and crowd in lakhs and it will be super spreader events. Already the country has crossed number of Corona patients to thousands and rising cases of Omicron is increasing tension of health staff. Still, political parties want elections at the cost of people’s lives. In such condition, EC has done what it can do and suggested centre to increase the speed of vaccination. That is the only remedy not to spread virus rapidly. The ECI has already asked the Union Government to prod the poll-bound states to expedite their vaccination program. The panel has also announced that the number of polling booths will be increased and the voting time enhanced by an hour in UP in a bid to prevent overcrowding. With four hundred and three Assembly seats, UP will witness multi-phase polling. The key question is: Will the ECI compress the elections into as few phases as possible or stagger them, like it did in West Bengal last year? Voting in West Bengal, which has two ninety four  Assembly seats, had been spread over eight phases and five weeks, leading to allegations from the Trinamool Congress and other parties that the prolonged schedule was aimed at favoring the ruling party at the Centre. Question is not about favoring which party. Question is long campaign period will attract crowds and spread the virus with expediting speed. The last year elections in West Bengal, Tamil Nadu, Kerala, Assam and Puducherry had coincided with the peak of the pandemic’s devastating second wave. The rallies and road shows organized by various parties contributed to the fast-rising caseload as Covid protocols were blatantly violated. The ECI had been accused of remaining a mute spectator to the violations, even as the Madras High Court had held the poll panel ‘singularly responsible’ for the spread of the second wave in the country. In UP and other four states, the same will be repeated and the co incidence is that, third wave is looming large on the country. In this backdrop, five state elections will occur. So, the number of Corona patients will increase to unprecedented level is the reality. It is expected that the ECI would have learnt lessons from the last years experience and will get its act together this time right at the outset. Though it may not be feasible to impose a blanket ban on major rallies, detailed guidelines for streamlining these gatherings can be worked out. With the BJP expressing willingness to hold virtual rallies in view of the worsening Covid situation, the ECI can explore the option of encouraging all parties to go for the online mode of campaigning in a big way. The onerous task of ensuring free, fair and safe elections will surely test the poll panel to the hilt. There are also problems in conducting virtual rallies. In a state like UP and Manipur, there is  no internet connectivity spread everywhere. Also, the workers get demoralized by such virtual rallies and meetings. These two hurdles are there which can derail the elections from the track. Actually, everybody should be accustomed to such hi tech campaign tactics but for that, the government should first increase internet connectivity, then only it can go for the virtual rallies and campaign. ECI has  not found any remedy for this issue so far. In India, elections booths are situated at such remote places that it is very difficult to reach there. The ECI staff has to go there and conduct polling is a challenge. Now, it is added with Corona threat. It will be real test for ECI to conduct polling in this situation.