Election Commission bans roadshows, vehicle rallies for remaining phases of West Bengal Assembly polls

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The Election Commission on Thursday banned roadshows and vehicle rallies in the state with immediate effect and said no public meeting having more than 500 people would be allowed, in view of the COVID safety norms being flouted during the poll campaign in West Bengal. 

New Delhi: The Election Commission on Thursday (April 22) banned roadshows and vehicle rallies in the state with immediate effect and said no public meeting having more than 500 people would be allowed, in view of the COVID safety norms being flouted during the poll campaign in West Bengal. The EC orders will come into force from 7 pm on Thursday.

The EC order said the commission has noted “with anguish” that many political parties and candidates are still not adhering to the prescribed safety norms during the public gatherings, therefore, “permission for roadshow, cycle/bike/vehicle rallies, if granted already, stands withdrawn.”

Earlier in the day, the Calcutta High Court warned on the alarming situation saying, “If EC won’t act the court will”. The court also expressed dissatisfaction with the Election Commission of India over enforcement of Covid-19 health safety norms during the ongoing West Bengal assembly election process, including campaigning. 

Hearing three public interest litigations (PILs) seeking enforcement of Covid protocol during the elections, the Calcutta HC bench presided by Chief Justice T B N Radhakrishnan said that issuance of circulars and holding meetings on Covid safety were not enough. The court sought an affidavit by Friday on steps taken to enforce the norms.

The court is quoted as saying, “We are not satisfied with the materials on record to state that the Election Commission of India and its officers on the ground in West Bengal have enforced their circulars,” adding that the ECI circulars show the route map and the protocol for the political parties, their workers, the people at large and responsible management by the officers including the police and other forces under its command.

Meanwhile, sixth phase polling in West Bengal recorded at least 79.09 per cent voter turnout till 5 pm in 43 assembly constituencies. Polling was held between 7 am and 6.30 pm at 14,480 polling stations in 17 assembly constituencies in North 24 Parganas district, nine each in Nadia and Uttar Dinajpur districts, and eight in Purba Bardhaman district.

“Polling was by and large peaceful today, apart from a few incidents of violence,” a senior official of the CEOs office reportedly said in Kolkata.

Among the four districts, Nadia registered the highest voter turnout of 82.67 per cent, followed by Purba Bardhaman (82.15 per cent), Uttar Dinajpur (77.76 per cent) and North 24 Parganas (75.94 per cent). The Election Commission has deployed 1,071 companies of central forces for the sixth phase.

Notably, the state will witness two more phases of polling on April 26 and 29, while the votes will be counted on May 2. 

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