Karnataka bypolls: EC flags 144 cases of COVID-19 norm violations

A file photo of Congress leaders, including former Chief Minister Siddaramaiah and KPCC chief D.K. Shivakumar, holding a byelection programme in Maski earlier this month  

Even as Karnataka struggles to cope with the second wave of COVID-19, byelections have brought in anxiety over the spread of infection, especially with Chief Minister B.S. Yediyurappa testing positive on Friday. It has emerged that five of his poll rallies during the past few days had attracted the ire of the Election Commission (EC) for violation of COVID-19 guidelines.

The guidelines issued by the State were found to have been violated during three campaign rallies attended by Mr. Yediyurappa at Maski in Raichur, and two in Belagavi. Fines were levied on three campaign organisers in Maski, while advisory notices have been issued for the violations in Belagavi.

In all, the EC has flagged 144 cases of violations of COVID-19 guidelines during the campaign by political parties for the byelections to Belagavi Lok Sabha, and Maski and Basavakalyan Assembly constituencies. While 17 FIRs were filed or are in the process of being filed, in about 75 instances fines were levied on the persons concerned. Incidentally, of the 17 FIRs 15 were filed in Basavakalyan alone; the other two were in Maski.

Violations of guideline were reported from the campaign of Home, Law and Parliamentary Affairs Minister Basavaraj Bommai in Basavakalyan, with an FIR being filed. Another FIR has been filed for violation of guidelines during the campaign of Social Welfare Minister B. Sriramulu in Maski. Industries Minister Jagadish Shettar’s campaign also saw norm violations.

Fines were collected from persons found violating the guidelines during the election campaigns of Leader of the Opposition Siddaramaiah in Raichur, former Ministers Krishna Byre Gowda, M.B. Patil, and H.K. Patil, BJP State president Nalin Kumar Kateel, and Karnataka Pradesh Congress Committee president D.K. Shivakumar. Rallies in which BJP general secretary (in charge of Karnataka) Arun Singh and Congress general secretary (in charge of Karnataka) Randeep Surjewala took part were also found to have violated the norms.

The campaigns of BJP candidate in Belagavi — Mangala A. Suresh Angadi, the wife of the late former Minister Suresh Angadi, whose death necessitated the bypoll — and her opponent Satish Jarkiholi also witnessed violations, resulting in fines being levied. Similarly, the campaign of the Congress candidate in Basavakalyan, Mala B. Narayana Rao, wife of the late legislator whose death resulted in the byelection, were also flagged for violations, with four FIRs being lodged. An FIR has also been lodged against JD(S) leaders in Basavakalayan.

“Fines have been collected from those who organised the rallies where violations were reported,” an Election Commission source said.

On the challenges in campaigning during the times of COVID-19, the BJP in-charge for Maski, N. Ravikumar, said that thousands always gather when leaders come for rallies. “In rural areas, masks are hardly used, so it becomes difficult for the organisers to enforce the rule.”

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Printable version | May 8, 2021 10:03:35 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/karnataka/karnataka-bypolls-ec-flags-144-cases-of-covid-19-norm-violations/article34339508.ece

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