Covid-19: Parties fear Covid curbs will hit voter turnout | Bengaluru News – Times of India


BENGALURU: The uptick in infections has affected the Election Commission and political parties’ preparations for the upcoming bypolls.
Parties are concerned that restrictions aimed at preventing cases may limit campaigning activities and result in a lower voter turnout.

The Belagavi Lok Sabha constituency and Basavakalyan and Maski assembly segments will go to the polls on April 17.
All three places are seeing a rise in Covid-19 cases. Bidar district, which includes Basavakalyan, has a high positivity rate of 3.1 per cent. Its active cases climbed from 398 on Tuesday to nearly 500 on Saturday.
In Belagavi, active cases increased from 187 to over 220 during the same period, and in Raichur district, which includes Maski, from 53 to 82.
The government has notified guidelines for the bypolls after consulting experts. Health commissioner KV Thrilok Chandra said that election officials had been asked to implement the advisory strictly.
Poll rallies were first limited to 500 people, but the latest rule is 15 people per gunta (around 1,000sqft) if the event is in the open. Officials said that numbers might to restricted further depending on the situation.
Only 200 people will be allowed to attend gatherings in enclosed spaces. Election candidates can take four people with them for door-to-door campaigning and their convoy during roadshows cannot have more than five vehicles.
The vehicles should be 100 metres or more apart. If these guidelines are violated, organisers will face a fine of at least Rs 10,000.
“Given the current situation involving a fast-spreading variant of the virus, strict enforcement is inevitable,” said Vishal R, the nodal officer for Covid management in the bypolls.
Dr MK Sudarshan, who heads the Covid-19 technical advisory committee, said that the new wave of infections was expected to last for at least three months, so restrictions must be strictly followed.
“These guidelines are tough to follow, especially during election campaigns. But it is the responsibility of political parties to adhere to the norms,” said state Congress working president Saleem Ahmed.
Voters aged above 80 and those with disabilities were offered the option of postal ballots, but only a handful registered. The last day for availing this facility was Saturday.
In Belagavi, 41,585 senior citizens and 12,282 people with disabilities were eligible for the facility, but none of them had submitted the form till Friday.
The Election Commission has provided the voting time slot of 5pm-6pm to Covid-19 patients, people in quarantine and residents of containment zones.
Covid-19 patients will have to wear PPE kits and travel in an ambulance to the polling stations. Parties fear that logistical challenges may affect the turnout.

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Sagar Biswas

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