The Uttar Pradesh police have registered a complaint against 2,500 unknown people, on direction from the Election Commission, for violating Covid norms after a massive crowd had gathered in front of the Samajwadi Party office for the joining-in function of two rebel ministers and several MLAs. Video clips showed hundreds of party workers gathered at the SP office and a majority of them not wearing masks or following social distancing.
The EC has banned public rallies, roadshows, and corner meetings till January 15 in the five poll-bound states, citing the fresh surge in Covid-19 cases, and issued stringent safety guidelines.
However, rampant violation of Covid norms can be seen in election rallies of all major political parties in poll-bound UP.
Former ministers of team Yogi Swami Prasad Maurya and Dharam Singh Saini, in addition to five BJP MLAs and one from the Apna Dal (Sonelal), joined the Samajwadi Party (SP) in the presence of its president Akhilesh Yadav.
The FIR has been registered at the Gautam Palli police station for violation of prohibitory orders and also the Epidemic Act in connection with massive crowds gathering at the Samajwadi Party (SP) office, a senior police official said.
“Prima facie, there was violation of COVID-19 norms, and investigations are underway. A team of officials of the district administration and police had gone there,” a senior official of the Lucknow district administration told news agency PTI.
The Lucknow District Magistrate had earlier said, “Samajwadi Party’s rally is being held without permission. The police team sent to SP office, necessary action to be taken in this regard.”
On people flouting COVID-19 protocols, Samajwadi Pary UP chief Naresh Uttam Patel said, “It was a virtual event inside our party office. We didn’t call anyone but people came. People are working abiding by COVID-19 protocols. The crowd there even at BJP ministers’ doorsteps and in markets, but they have a problem with us.”
The Election Commission has listed out 16-point guidelines for campaigning as it banned ‘nukkad sabhas’ (corner meetings) on public roads and roundabouts, limited the number of persons allowed for the door-to-door campaign to five, including the candidate, and prohibited victory processions after the counting of votes.
Capital Lucknow and other parts of Uttar Pradesh have been also witnessing a spurt in coronavirus cases.
Less than 30 per cent of the population is fully vaccinated in Uttar Pradesh, which was one of the states hit worst during the second wave of the virus. Images of thousands of bodies buried on the sandbanks of Ganga and floating down the river had made headlines even in the foreign media.
Several parties have opposed the EC’s decision to ban all physical rallies saying it gave undue advantage to parties with greater financial resources, and also that the digital infrastructure in remote parts of state are not as robust as to hold virtual campaigning.
The Akali Dal has today written to the EC on the matter. “We urge @ECISVEEP to reconsider the ban on election rallies & corner meetings in Pb. It should allow small meetings as they are a must for candidates to approach all sections of society. Major part of society will remain uncovered if only digital campaigning is allowed,” the party said in a tweet.
We urge @ECISVEEP to reconsider the ban on election rallies & corner meetings in Pb. It should allow small meetings as they are a must for candidates to approach all sections of society. Major part of society will remain uncovered if only digital campaigning is allowed.
— Shiromani Akali Dal (@Akali_Dal_) January 14, 2022
“It is not possible to cover all the voters of the assembly constituency in digital mode as there are many backward areas in the state where internet networks are not working properly. Old people who constitute a major part of the population rarely use digital methods,” the party’s official Twitter handle added.