New Delhi: The Election Commission is ‘confident’ of holding assembly elections for five states in 2022, which include densely populated states like Uttar Pradesh and Punjab as per its schedule, said Chief Election Commissioner Sushil Chandra on Tuesday.
“Election Commission confident of holding five assembly polls next year, including in UP and Punjab, on time,” CEC Sushil Chandra said to PTI on Tuesday.
He further explained that the latest assembly polls held in large states like Bihar, West Bengal, and four other assemblies have prepared them with ‘experience’ which will help them in handling future polling activities.
“We’ve gained experience by holding polls for Bihar, five other assemblies including West Bengal amid pandemic, ” CEC Chandra said.
He added that it is EC’s duty to hold election activities as per government terms, “Foremost duty of EC to hold polls, submit list of winning candidates to Governor before assembly’s term expires, ” CEC added.
The terms of the legislative assemblies of Goa, Manipur, Punjab and Uttarakhand are coming to an end in March 2022, while the term of the Uttar Pradesh legislative assembly is scheduled to end in May.
He was asked whether the poll panel will be able to hold the assembly polls due in five states on time due to Covid-19 as recently it has deferred some Lok Sabha and assembly by-polls due to the second wave of Covid-19. Some Rajya Sabha bypolls and biennial legislative council elections were also deferred due to the second wave of the pandemic.
“As you are aware that the second wave of COVID-19 is also receding and the numbers (of infections) are quite less. We have done elections in Bihar during the pandemic, we have done elections in four states and one UT. We have experience… We have learned various experiences on how to hold polls during the pandemic also,” he said.
“I am very much sure that with the receding pandemic now, and I wish the pandemic is over soon, we will absolutely be in a position to hold elections next year which are scheduled in five states on time, as per the schedule,” Chandra said.
While Uttar Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Goa and Manipur have BJP-led governments, Punjab has a Congress government. Uttar Pradesh, the country’s most populous state, has approximately 14.66 crore voters, while Punjab has over 2 crore electors, according to January 1, 2021 data of the Election Commission.
Uttarakhand has 78.15 lakh voters while Manipur has 19.58 lakh and Goa has 11.45 lakh electors. The five states together have an estimated 17.84 crore voters.
Ahead of the Bihar polls held last year, the EC had taken various steps to ensure a “Covid-free” election such as allowing people above 80 years of age and those suffering from COVID-19 to use postal ballot and reducing the number of voters per polling station from 1500 to 1000 to ensure distancing norms.
The number of polling stations had increased by nearly 80,000 in the four states and one Union Territory due to the distancing norms as a lesser number of voters were allowed per polling station.
The same principles were adopted in elections to West Bengal, Assam, Tamil Nadu, Kerala and Puducherry.
However, after it found that Covid safety norms were being flouted in West Bengal during campaigning, the Election Commission had banned roadshows and vehicle rallies in the state and capped the maximum permissible number of people at public meetings at 500.
The decision was taken when the last few phases of polls in West Bengal were still to be held. The EC had said at that time that it was noting “with anguish” that many political parties and candidates were still not adhering to the prescribed safety norms during the public gatherings. The Commission had also banned victory processions during and after counting of votes.
(With inputs from PTI)