The Election Commission of India (ECI) on Saturday announced that the Assembly elections in Uttar Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Punjab, Manipur and Goa will be held between February 10 and March 7 in seven phases with counting of votes on March 10. It also banned physical rallies and roadshows till January 15 due to the rising COVID-19 cases.
Announcing the election schedule with a strong focus on digital and virtual modes of campaigning, Chief Election Commissioner Sushil Chandra said the ban on rallies, roadshows, nukkad sabhas, padayatras and vehicle rallies will be reviewed on January 15.
Asked about experts predicting the third wave of the Covid pandemic to peak in February, when voting for five of the seven phases of the polls will take place, he said the situation is very dynamic and nobody can predict Covid numbers of future date.
He also assured voters that all necessary steps are being taken to ensure "Covid safe" elections and said they should come out in large numbers to exercise their franchise as polling booths will be sanitised and polling officers vaccinated.
In all, elections will be held for 690 assembly seats, and 18.3 crore people, including 8.5 crore women, will be eligible to cast their votes in the five states.
In the politically important Uttar Pradesh, voting will start from the western region and move towards the east over seven phases.
Elections will be held in 403 assembly seats in the state in the seven phases from February 10 to March 7.
For Manipur's 60 assembly constituencies, elections will held in two phases on February 27 and March 3, while polling in Goa (40 seats), Punjab (117 seats) and Uttarakhand (70 seats) will be held on February 14.
The Model Code of Conduct has come into effect in the five states with the announcement of the elections.
"The commission will not hesitate to bar parties from further rallies if Covid protocol is not followed," Chandra said.
The Election Commission has also set stringent Covid guidelines for the polls.
It has restricted the number of people for door-to-door campaigns to five and has asked political parties to provide masks, hand sanitisers to people attending rallies, if they are allowed, Chandra said.
The poll panel has also banned victory celebrations and only two persons will be allowed to accompany a candidate to collect the winning certificate.
Meanwhile, let us take a look at how the politicians reacted after ECI announced the seven-phased polls in five states.
1. Amarinder Singh
"Sooner the better. We are all set for the Big Day that will decide the future of Punjab. I appeal to the people to participate in the carnival of democracy with full spirit while at the same time observing all COVID related protocols," tweeted Amarinder Singh.
2. Arvind Kejriwal
"The dates for the elections have been announced. Aam Aadmi Party is ready," tweeted Arvind Kejriwal in Hindi.
3. JP Nadda
"BJP will again receive the blessings of the people in the upcoming Assembly elections. BJP will come back to power with an overwhelming majority," wrote JP Nadda.
4. Manish Sisodia
"AAP is preparing for a virtual & door-to-door campaign. I'd like to remind people of Punjab that even a vote for Congress means voting for BJP; this was seen in Goa, Arunachal Pradesh, Uttarakhand, & now in Chandigarh, so don't fall into that trap," said Manish Sisodia.
"Not only AAP, but the voters of poll-bound states were waiting for a long time to give a chance to Kejriwal's governance & remove the existing betraying govts... Feb 14 has historically been lucky for AAP anyway," he added.
5. Sukhbir Singh Badal
"People of Punjab are eagerly looking forward to a strong, stable & development-oriented SAD-BSP govt, committed to peace & communal harmony. Present rulers had reduced governance to a circus joke. People will heave a sigh of relief that it is over," said Sukhbir Singh Badal.
6. Yogi Adityanath
"BJP will be successful in forming in the government again with overwhelming majority when results for Uttar Pradesh Assembly elections are announced on March 10. There should be no doubt about it," said Yogi Adityanath.
7. Harish Rawat
"We welcome the announcement of election dates for Uttarakhand. Congress always abides by the code of conduct and the guidelines set by the Election Commission," said Congress leader Harish Rawat.
8. Akhilesh Yadav
"People in Uttar Pradesh are set to bid farewell to the BJP government. These dates will mark a huge change in the state. Rules will be followed by Samajwadi Party, but the Election Commission should make sure the ruling party follows these guidelines," said SP chief Akhilesh Yadav.
9. N Biren Singh
"I welcome the announcement by the Election Commission. Out govt delivered what we promised, even though some things take time. We will get the absolute majority," said Manipur CM N Biren Singh.
10. Amit Shah
"I have full faith that under the leadership of @narendramodi ji and due to the development and public welfare works done by the state governments of BJP, the people will once again give BJP a chance to serve them. I appeal to all the workers to take our achievements to the public with full dedication (sic)," tweeted Amit Shah.
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