The Election Commission on Monday assessed the COVID-19 situation in the five poll-bound states with the Union health secretary and asked the top brass of the Narcotics Control Bureau to check the influence of drugs in elections. The commission also met top officials of ITBP, BSF and SSB and pressed for maintaining strict vigil on international borders some of the poll-going states share.
Sources aware of the meetings said Health Secretary Rajesh Bhushan briefed the poll panel for nearly an hour on the Covid situation in the country, especially the poll-bound Uttarakhand, Manipur, Goa, Punjab and Uttar Pradesh. The issue of the spread of Omicron variant of the coronavirus was also discussed.
“It was a session meant to get information. The commission assessed the situation based on statistics provided (by the Health Ministry),” a functionary said.
The health secretary also briefed the EC about the Covid protocols and Home Ministry guidelines issued in the recent past to check the spread of the virus. During their interaction with top officials of NCB, Indo-Tibetan Border Police (ITBP), Sashastra Seema Bal (SSB) and Border Security Force (BSF), the poll panel asked the Narcotics Control Bureau to ensure drugs do not influence polls. The commission in particular referred to Punjab and Goa with regard to drug smuggling, the sources said.
The terms of Goa, Punjab, Uttarakhand and Manipur legislative Assemblies are ending on different dates in March next year while the Uttar Pradesh Assembly’s term will end in May. The Election Commission is expected to announce election dates next month.
On Tuesday, the Chief Election Commissioner and fellow Election Commissioners are scheduled to visit Uttar Pradesh to take stock of the poll preparedness in the state. An Allahabad High Court bench of Justice Shekhar Yadav had on Thursday last urged the government and the poll panel to consider postponing the Uttar Pradesh assembly elections for a month or two and banning all political rallies amid the fears of an impending third wave of Covid.
When asked about the observation, CEC Sushil Chandra had said in Dehradun on Friday that the EC would be visiting Uttar Pradesh soon and “an appropriate decision as required by the situation will be taken after we review it.” The commission has already visited Punjab, Goa and Uttarakhand as part of its pre-poll stock-taking exercise.