Other States

LJP opposes Bihar polls amid pandemic, floods

Villagers wade through a flooded area following incessant rain, in Saharsa district on July 31, 2020.

Villagers wade through a flooded area following incessant rain, in Saharsa district on July 31, 2020.   | Photo Credit: PTI

With the double whammy of COVID-19 pandemic and floods, Bihar is not in a position to hold Assembly elections at present, key NDA ally Lok Janshakti Party told the Election Commission on Friday.

The LJP was replying to a letter sent by the EC on July 17 to all political parties in Bihar, seeking their views on holding the Assembly elections in the time of the pandemic. The Opposition Rashtriya Janata Dal, along with eight others, in a joint memorandum to the EC, had flagged the extent of spread of coronavirus in the State, though the parties did not openly demand for deferring the elections.

In a strongly worded two-page letter, LJP president Chirag Paswan said holding elections at such an hour would mean “knowingly” endangering people’s lives. Mr. Paswan said the COVID pandemic had already taken a gigantic proportion in the State and if experts were to be believed, it could peak in October-November. The 2015 Assembly elections were held over five phases from the last week of October to November first week. He said the State administration, at such a time, must concentrate on upgrading the existing health facilities.

Along with the pandemic, Bihar is currently battling with floods. Out of the 38 districts in the State, 13 are impacted. “Under these circumstances, it would be difficult to conduct elections while adhering to the advice of the WHO and the ICMR,” Mr. Paswan wrote.

The LJP chief said elections were not a “one-day” affair. Political parties had to hold campaign, which included public meetings, pada yatras and none of these were possible amidst the restrictions due to the pandemic. The LJP also maintained that digital campaigning was not possible in the State since a large proportion of voters did not have a smartphone and over-reliance on digital campaign would mean keeping them out of the process.

Even on the day of polling, nearly 4-5 lakh government officials and others including party representatives would be deployed at the 75,000 polling booths. To maintain physical distance in these booths would be a challenge, Mr. Paswan said. Not only the State administration, Central forces too would be posted for the smooth conduct of polls. Their lives would also be put in peril, he said.

The elections would put unnecessary strain on the State’s already overstretched finances, Mr. Paswan said. He recommended that the elections be deferred till the situation improved.

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Printable version | Aug 6, 2020 10:25:11 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/other-states/ljp-opposes-bihar-polls-amid-pandemic-floods/article32244727.ece

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