ECI should take punitive action against leaders violating Covid-19 prevention protocol in the Bihar elections
The Election Commission of India (ECI) had come up with broad guidelines to ensure compliance with Covid-19 prevention practices for elections in the country.
In the run-up to the presidential polls in the US, election rallies have turned super-spreader events for Covid-19—a Trump rally in Tulsa in June led to a huge spike in infections. This alone should have been a warning how much more difficult, in terms of preventing Covid-19, the Bihar elections could prove; the state’s population density is 10 times that of the US. The Election Commission of India (ECI) had come up with broad guidelines to ensure compliance with Covid-19 prevention practices for elections in the country. However, earlier this week, an FIR had been filed against the state Congress chief and few other leaders after a crowd gathered at the airport to welcome some party leaders. In another incident, FIRs were filed against 150 people from the RJD for violating Covid-19 protocol. As campaign fervour picks up, there will likely be worse violations; for a state where the healthcare infrastructure is quite inadequate, super-spreader incidents will mean disaster.
To ensure precautions and preventive protocols are adhered to, the ECI has to take action against erring candidates and leaders. More so since it has made arrangements for a large part of the nomination, etc, process to be completed digitally. Disqualifying candidates for violations of the prevention protocol would have been a good deterrent; but, given how the ECI may not have the power to do this in the present instance, the next best option would be to suspend candidates and their star campaigners from campaigning for the entire campaign period or a part of it, like it did during the assembly elections in Delhi earlier this year. Unless there is a clear electoral cost for violating Covid-19 protocol and endangering public safety, it is difficult to imagine politicians toeing the line.