Madhya Pradesh HC’s order on physical rallies by political parties should be seen against the threat of rising infections
The exit polls will give an idea on the performance of parties in elections and will also provide a peek into which candidate is likely to win.
The Madhya Pradesh High Court has ordered politicians and political parties to hold in-person rallies, in nine districts, only when virtual rallies are not possible, in the context of by-elections in the state. The HC has also directed candidates to obtain the Election Commission of India (ECI) approval for these physical rallies in writing, once the district magistrate permits the rallies. Both candidates and the EC have challenged the order. The order does put the polls in Madhya Pradesh under a different protocol than the one in Bihar, where politicians have conducted mega rallies. But the order will be a boon against the backdrop rising SARS CoV-2 infections in the country.
The ECI and candidates may have a point in the sense that the ECI is empowered to decide on election matters, but in this case, the point that it may not be easy to maintain social distancing during political events is something that both parties and ECI seem to be eating. If events by political parties are any indication-photographs show people packed together, flouting all social distancing norms-the relaxation of norms may lead to a rise in infections in coming months. In fact, data from the US shows that cases have increased in the US since the election process started and rallies by president Donald Trump have been termed as super-spreaders. A recent study published in The Lancet shows a ban on public events is associated with the greatest reduction in R-value, which indicates the rate of spread of the virus. Data shows that a public event ban leads to a 24% reduction in R after 28 days.