The ministry of home affairs (MHA) on Thursday partially modified its latest Covid-19 guidelines to allow political rallies with immediate effect in 12 states where elections are scheduled to be held.
According to the original guidelines issued on September 30, political, social, religious and other gatherings were to be allowed, in open spaces, from October 15, with no ceiling on the number of attendees. In closed spaces, the upper bound on the audience for such gatherings was raised to 200 from 100. Both of these changes will now be applicable with immediate effect in the poll-bound states.
The changes will mean political parties can hold election rallies and meetings, usually conducted outdoors, ahead of the Bihar assembly elections and by-polls in 11 other states -- Telangana, Madhya Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh, Gujarat, Karnataka, Haryana, Jharkhand, Chhattisgarh, Manipur, Nagaland and Odisha.
The home ministry has asked all political parties to ensure that people follow all other safeguards listed in it September 30 guidelines, such as ensuring the wearing of masks, social distancing and checking the temperatures of the attendees.
Bihar will vote in three phases , on October 28, November 3, and November 7. The results of the election will be declared on November 10. The voting for 28 assembly seats in Madhya Pradesh will be held on November 3 and the results will be announced on November 10.
In his order sent to the 12 poll-bound states, home secretary Ajay Bhalla said that “it is decided that the state governments concerned may permit political gatherings outside containment zones beyond the existing limit of 100 persons on any date before October 15, 2020 in those assembly / parliamentary constituencies only where elections are to be held subject to the following conditions”.
As per the conditions, for holding political gatherings in closed spaces, a maximum of 50% of the hall capacity will be allowed with a ceiling of 200 persons and the wearing of face masks, social distancing, provision for thermal scanning, and use of hand wash or sanitizers will be mandatory.
In open spaces, the political gatherings will have to keep in mind the size of the ground or space with strict observance of social distancing, provision for thermal scanning and use of hand wash or sanitizers.
“State or Union Territory governments will issue detailed SOPs (standard operating procedures) to regulate such political gatherings and strict enforce the same,” the home secretary’s order said