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ECI Notice to Political Parties, Candidates for Flouting COVID Norms, Notice to Kamal Nath Too

NEW DELHI, Oct 21: Not Only hurling personal abuses on each other and using derogatory terms for lower caste people taking the electioneering in the Bihar Assembly and Madhya Pradesh by-elections to the new low, the political parties and the candidates have also been found organizing public meetings in total disregard to the guidelines issued by the Election Commission of India in keeping with the COVID-19 restrictions.

The ECI on Wednesday took strong objection to political parties and candidates flouting its Covid-19 guidelines. The commission said it got to know about public meetings where huge crowd assembled in utter violation of social distancing norms. And the leaders addressing these meetings, the commission said, did that without wearing masks.

“By doing so, the political parties and candidates are not only flouting the guidelines of the commission with impunity, but exposing themselves as well as the public attending the rallies/meetings to the danger of infection during the pandemic,” the Election Commission said.

It also said during elections, political parties were the most important stakeholders in the electoral process. They were duty bound to observe the norms determined by the commission for electioneering, the ECI further said.

The commission once again asked the political parties and candidates “to demonstrate utmost vigil and care during electioneering”.

“CEOs and the District Machinery would be expected by the Commission to invoke appropriate and relevant penal provisions against the candidates concerned as well as the organizers responsible for such violations,” the ECI said.

The top electoral body said instructions to ensure compliance had been issued to Chief Electoral Officers (CEOs) and state governments where elections are scheduled to be held.

In another development, the ECI sent a notice to Congress leader and the former MP chief minister Kamal Nath for his “item” jibe against BJP leader Imarti Devi. The commission has asked Kamal Nath to explain his stand in the next 48 hours.

Taking objection to the remark, the commission mentioned in the notice that the Model Code of Conduct, which is in place due to by-polls in MP, provide that no party should indulge in any activity which may aggravate the existing differences or create mutual hatred or cause tension between different castes and communities.

Addressing a campaign meeting on Sunday for the November 3 by-election in Gwalior’s Dabra town, where the BJP has fielded Imarti Devi, Nath had said the Congress candidate was a “simple person” unlike his opponent who was an “item”.

The remarks have triggered an outrage with BJP leaders, led by chief minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan, staging protests against Kamal Nath.

Former Congress president Rahul Gandhi had on Tuesday disapproved of Nath’s remark, saying it was ‘unfortunate’. The National Commission for Women has sought an explanation from the former Madhya Pradesh chief minister for his remark.

Kamal Nath has expressed regret over his remark and has claimed that he did not say anything disrespectful and his use of “item” was taken out of context to create confusion.

(Manas Dasgupta)