All political parties in Uttar Pradesh were in favour of conducting the 2022 Uttar Pradesh Assembly election as per schedule following COVID-19 protocol , Chief Election Commissioner Sushil Chandra said on Thursday. However, guidelines on how big election rallies would be managed or whether digital communication would have to be increased, would be issued after the election schedule was announced, he said.
Mr. Chandra was speaking at a press conference after review meetings with representatives of various political parties and top officials in Uttar Pradesh.
“All parties told us elections should be held on time following COVID-19 protocol,” said Mr. Chandra, adding that some parties suggested restricting the number and size of rallies.
Despite HC appeal
Amid rising cases of COVID-19, the Allahabad High Court had recently appealed to the ECI as well as Prime Minister Narendra Modi to immediately ban rallies and public meetings of political parties and consider postponing the Assembly election, stressing that it was more important to save lives.
Mr. Chandra said the ECI would take cognisance of the HC’s appeal but said directive guidelines would be issued once election was announced. He added that the COVID-19 situation was “dynamic.”
The ECI officials discussed the management of election rallies with top health and administrative officials. “This point (cutting down rallies) will be definitely considered how the big rallies are to be managed or whether digital communication may have to be increased,” said Mr. Chandra.
More time, booths
Voting duration during the 2022 election has been extended by one hour and now would be conducted across the State from 8 a.m. to 6.p.m. to cater to social distancing norms, said the CEC.
The staff deployed at the voting booths would also have to be fully vaccinated while the size of polling booths would be reduced from one per 1,500 persons to one per 1,250. This means there would be over 11,000 new voting booths taking the total to over 1.74 lakh, said the CEC.
While a final voter list was yet to be published, as of Thursday, there were over 15 crore voters in U.P. including 53 lakh new voters, while the number of voters in the 18-19 age group had increased from 0.51% to 1.32%, he said.
Mr. Chandra expressed concern over the fall in voting percentage in U.P. from the 61% in 2017 Assembly election to 59% in the 2019 Lok Sabha election and said an awareness campaign would be held to improve the numbers.