The Election Commission on Saturday extended daily timings for poll campaign by 4 hours to between 6 am and 10 pm from 8 am to 8 pm earlier, and allowed political parties to hold rallies with crowds upto 50% capacity of open spaces or as per SDMA limit, whichever is less. The earlier limit for outdoor rallies was 30% of the ground’s capacity or as prescribed by SDMA.
“As per information received from the Union Health Secretary the ground situation of COVID has significantly improved and the cases are fast receding in the country,” the Commission said in a statement while announcing relaxations for political parties.
Padyatras with a limited number of persons as permitted by the district authorities have also been allowed.
The Commission also underscored the “need of the political parties and candidates for greater participation in elections”, while lifting restrictions.
On January 8, while announcing the poll schedule the Election Commission had banned all physical rallies, roadshows, processions and vehicle rallies because of the rise in Covid-19 cases. On February 6, the poll panel relaxed restrictions on political rallies along with indoor and outdoor meetings.
Elections are currently ongoing for five assemblies—Uttar Pradesh, Manipur, Punjab, Uttarakhand, and Goa. The first phase began on February 10.
Uttar Pradesh votes in all seven phases of elections. Uttarakhand and Goa are scheduled to vote for their assemblies in a single phase on February 14. Punjab votes in the third phase on February 20. The last phase of the election is on March 7. Votes will be counted on March 10.
The development comes India continues to see a decline in Covid cases—the country recorded 50,407 new Covid cases and 804 deaths on Saturday.
(With inputs from agencies)