Results on 10 March. Strict Covid protocols announced.


New Delhi: The countdown for the 2022 Legislative Assembly elections started on Saturday with the Election Commission of India (ECI) announcing the schedule of polling for the five states of Uttar Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Goa, Punjab and Manipur. In a press briefing in New Delhi, the ECI said that Uttar Pradesh would go for polls over seven phases. Elections in UP will start on 10 February and end on 7 March, while Uttarakhand, Goa and Punjab will go for single-phase polling on 14 February. Manipur will vote in two phases on 27 February and 3 March. The counting of votes will take place on 10 March. With the announcement of the poll dates, the model code of conduct has come into force in these five states.

The seven-phase polling in Uttar Pradesh will take place on 10, 14, 20, 23, 27 February and 3 and 7 March. “There is equitable distribution of seats for Uttar Pradesh in seven phases. Voting phases move west-to-east in terms of the state’s geographic spread,” said Chief Election Commissioner Sushil Chandra at the press conference.

Along with the poll dates, CEC Chandra announced strict Covid norms that would not allow political parties to conduct any rallies, or road shows until 15 January. Even street corner meetings have been stopped. Only virtual campaigning is allowed. The CEC said that since the situation is dynamic, the ECI will keep monitoring the situation and take a call on public meetings periodically.

“No physical rally of political parties or probably candidates or any other group related to elections shall be allowed till 15 January. The Election Commission will subsequently review the situation and issue further instructions accordingly,” said CEC Chandra. “No roadshows, padyatras, cycle or bike rallies and processions shall be allowed till 15 January. Situation to be reviewed and fresh instructions to be issued later,” the CEC said.

“Our civil application should be used by voters to report any incident of violation of the model code of conduct, distribution of money and freebies. Within 100 minutes of complaint, ECI officials will reach the place of the offence,” Chandra added.

The CEC also announced that post the results on 10 March, no victory processions will be allowed. Only five people will be allowed for door-to-door campaigning. The ECI will not hesitate to cancel rallies if Covid protocols are violated. Chief secretaries and district magistrates will be held responsible for violation of Covid rules.

In total, elections will be held on 690 Assembly seats of the five states. Out of which 403 Assembly seats are in Uttar Pradesh, 117 in Punjab, 70 in Uttarakhand, 60 in Manipur and 40 in Goa.

Keeping in mind the pandemic situation, polling time has been increased by an hour in all these states and candidates have been encouraged to minimise physical campaigning and increase virtual campaigning.

Talking to The Sunday Guardian, Manindra Nath Thakur, a political scientist based in New Delhi said, “Out of the five states, UP and Punjab are the two states which would be watched very closely in the next few months as these states will decide the road ahead for the BJP and Congress, respectively. BJP will put all its energy in Uttar Pradesh, which is the prize catch of Indian politics as it sends 80 MPs to the Lok Sabha. While Punjab will decide which way the main national opposition party is going.”

With agency inputs