AMN / WEB DESK
The process of Assembly polls for Uttar Pradesh is going to begin with the issuance of notification on 14th January. Uttar Pradesh will go to polls in seven phases from 10th of February to 7th of March.
Polling for Punjab, Uttarakhand and Goa will be held on 14th of February in single phase. Manipur will vote on 27th of February and 3rd of March in two phases. The counting of votes will be taken up together on 10th of March. A total of 690 Assembly Constituencies in Goa, Manipur, Punjab, Uttarakhand and Uttar Pradesh will go to polls this time.
In view of the prevailing COVID-19 pandemic and rising cases of Omicron variant across the country, Election Commission has laid focus on COVID-safe elections with maximum participation. It is going to ensure the safety of vote and voters as both are equally and critically important in the democracy. All election officials and employees will be considered as Front Line Workers and all eligible officers will be vaccinated with precautionary dose.
During the electoral campaign, no roadshows, Padayatras, cycle or bike rallies and processions will be allowed till 15th of January. The Election Commission will review the situation and issue further instructions accordingly. Political parties have been advised to conduct their campaign through digital mode as much as possible. Maximum of five persons will be allowed for door-to-door election campaign by candidates. If a candidate or political party violates any of the above guidelines, no further permission will be given to the concerned candidate/party for rallies or meetings.
The Election Commission has also decided to increase the broadcast time allotted to recognised political parties on Doordarshan and All India Radio during these elections.
The Election Commission has decided to allow maximum 1,250 electors in a Polling Station instead of earlier stipulation of 1,500 electors. Accordingly, there is a major change in the number of Polling Stations in the poll-bound states of Goa, Manipur, Punjab, Uttarakhand and Uttar Pradesh.
In Goa, the number of Polling Stations for the upcoming Assembly Elections is 1,722 and there is an increase of 4.87 per cent over the number of Polling Stations in the last elections in 2017. Similarly, the number of Polling Stations in Manipur is 2,959 and there is an increase of 5.91 per cent as compared to that of 2017 elections. In case of Punjab, the number of Polling Stations this time is 24,689 indicating a rise of 9.24 per cent. In all, there are 11,647 Polling Stations during the upcoming elections in Uttarakhand which indicates augmentation of 7.31 per cent over the number of Polling Stations in the last elections. In Uttar Pradesh, the present number of Polling Stations is 1,74,351 and it is more than 18.49 per cent as compared to the number of Polling Stations in 2017.
Option of Postal Ballot facility has been extended to the electors who are COVID- 19 positive or suspect as certified by competent authority and are in home or institutional quarantine along with those marked as Persons with Disabilities (PwD) and above the age of 80 years.
The Election Commission has issued detailed instructions to the concerned Chief Electoral Officers to ensure that every Polling Station is equipped with Assured Minimum Facilities (AMF) like drinking water, waiting shed, toilet with water facility, adequate arrangements for lighting, ramp of appropriate gradient for the Persons with Disabilities. The special facilities will include mandatory sanitization of Polling Station, thermal checking of voters at entry point either by polling staff or paramedical staff or an Asha worker. If temperature is above the set norms of Health Ministry at first reading, then it will be checked twice and if it remains, then the elector shall be provided with token and will be asked to come for voting at the last hour of poll. At the last hour of poll, such electors will be facilitated for voting, strictly following COVID-19 related preventive measures.
Earmarking circles for maintaining social distance for voters standing in the queue will be there and the services of Booth Level Officers and volunteers will be engaged to monitor and regulate social distancing norms strictly.
Face Masks will be kept in reserves for those electors who are not carrying the mask. Hand gloves will be provided to the voter, for signing on the voter register and pressing button of Electronic Voting Machine for voting.
In view of the pandemic, the Commission has decided to extend the poll timing by one hour in all Assembly Constituencies.
COVID-19 patients, who are quarantined, will be allowed to cast their vote at the last hour of the poll day at their respective Polling Stations, under the supervision of health authorities, strictly following COVID-19 related preventive measures. Proper mechanism of collection and disposal of waste or used gloves will be put in place at each Polling Station.
The Election Commission has impressed upon the Chief Secretaries of five poll-bound states to accelerate COVID vaccination so as to ensure safety of all the people during the whole process of the upcoming elections.