ECI bans road shows in West Bengal Elections, caps attendance at public meetings at 500
In a belated move on Thursday, the Election Commission banned roadshows and cycle, bike, and vehicle rallies and limited public meetings to a maximum of 500 persons for the West Bengal elections. Applicable from 7 pm on February 22, this order came hours after the Calcutta High Court pulled up the poll body for failing to effectively enforce COVID-19 guidelines in the state. On April 16 too, the EC had taken steps such as banning campaigning between 7 pm and 10 am and increasing the silence period to 72 hours after the HC called for strict implementation of the COVID-19 curbs.
Explaining the rationale for its fresh guidelines, the EC expressed “anguish” that many political parties and candidates are still not adhering to the safety norms during public gatherings making it difficult for the election machinery to enforce the directions fully. Invoking its powers under Article 324, it also withdrew permission already granted for roadshows, cycle/bike/vehicle rallies. The WB Chief Electoral Officer, District Election Officers and Returning Officers have been asked to ensure compliance of the same “without fail”. At present, there are 63,496 active cases in West Bengal while 6,14,750 patients have been discharged and 10,710 fatalities have been recorded.
Permission for roadshow, cycle/bike/vehicle rallies, if granted already, stands withdrawn: Election Commission of India
— ANI (@ANI) April 22, 2021
Mamata Banerjee-led TMC had swept the 2016 Assembly polls by bagging 211 seats in the 294-member Assembly. In West Bengal, 294 seats are up for grabs and people will be able to cast their votes at 1,01,916 polling stations. Buoyed by its stupendous 2019 Lok Sabha performance, BJP is looking to oust TMC and is aiming at winning over 200 seats this time. While Congress was the second-largest party in 2016, it has tied with the Left and the ISF to form the Sanjukta Morcha.
The voter turnout for the seats that went to the polls in the first, second, third, fourth, fifth, and sixth phases was 84.63 per cent, 86.11 per cent, 84.61 per cent, 79.90 per cent, 82.49 per cent and 79.11 per cent respectively. The polling for the remaining phases will take place on April 26 and April 29. The election results will be declared on May 2.