At last the Election Commission of India (ECI) has announced the scheduled for the conduct of the assembly elections to five states were elections were due. But it is astonishing that the election commission and the centre government has downplayed the pandemic of coronavirus which has not subsided but raised its ugly head again. It is crystal clear that the election commission while announcing the assembly elections to five states has not considered the threat to the life of the common citizens and the contesting candidates and their supporters. Though the election commission has laid down the COVID appropriate behavior directions to be fallowed during electioneering by the contesting candidates and their supporters as well as the general public. But it is very astonishing and disturbing that the scheduled of the elections has been announced by the election commission amid the threat of coronavirus and its new variant omicron. One wonders that why the election commission has decided to announce and go ahead with the assembly elections when the threat of coronavirus is looming large and the monster of COVID19 has not subsided. The precious lives of the people are continuously devoid by the pandemic of coronavirus and there is no respite from it and in such an unfavourable environment, the best course would have been to postpone the state assembly elections till the demon of coronavirus is subsided. It is very strange that neither the political parties nor the general public has demanded the postponement of the elections due to the threat to the lives of the people during electioneering. It is crystal clear that the selfish politicians and the political parties are intoxicated by the opium of the power and cosy chairs and thus have they readily jumped into the election fray. It seems that neither the political parties nor the government has shown any concern for the pandemic of coronavirus and are enthusiastic about conducting the elections amid coronavirus and this is very disturbing development indeed. The constitutional propriety says that that new assembly should be constituted within six months of the last session of the state legislature. Since there is the emergency of the coronavirus and so some relaxation should have been opted by the election commission and the centre government. The best course was to promulgate the governor’s rule in the five states where the elections were due and by doing this the holding of the elections could have been put at halt for the time being till the virus of COVID-19 is subsided. By doing this the precious lives of the contesting candidates and voters will not be exposed to the pandemic of coronavirus. Therefore it was in the fitness of things to postpone the assembly elections and imposing President’s rule or what in effect is the governor’s rule in the states concerned. This will not violate the constitutional provisions and so this should be resorted to in the interest of the political parties, the contesting candidates and the public at large. Thus the election commission and the centre government should have thought eleven times before announcing and giving a go ahead to the assembly elections. When Jammu and Kashmir and Ladakh could be put on centre rule or Governor’s rule and no constitutional provision is violated, then why cannot the Governor’s rule be imposed in the five states were elections are due. This could have been done in view of the corona crisis because the lives of the general public should not be exposed to the infection of corona. The chances of spreading the infection of corona are very big during the elections as the contesting candidates, their supporters and the general public is exposed to the risk of getting infected. So there was dire need to impose central rule in the five states where the elections are due. But in the mad rush for power and pelf the government and the political parties and the politicians care too hoots for the pandemic of coronavirus and they have agreed to participate in the elections. It is because the power and cosy chairs are very dear to the politicians and so they are jumping in the elections and disregarding the threat of coronavirus. The directions of the election commission regarding the standing operating procedures and the COVID appropriate behavior have given good bye to the election fervor, enthusiasm and these directions have eliminated all sheen from the electioneering as there is no activeness seen in the present elections. Thus instead of issuing the directions for following the COVID appropriate behavior the election commission should have postponed the elections to the five state assemblies till the threat of coronavirus subsides so that there would have been no threat, risk and exposure to the deadly virus to the contesting candidates, their supporters and the general public or the voters. One fails to understand what was the compulsion to the election commission and the centre government to go ahead with the elections amid the spread of the coronavirus and its new variant omicron-the transmission of which is very high. Therefore the election commission should not have announced the schedule of the elections to the five state assemblies during and amid the coronavirus as the elections and electioneering is bound to put to risk the precious lives of the contesting candidates, their supporters, general public as the voters and the staff which will be assigned the election duty on the different election dates. It seems that it is the opium of power and the love of the cosy chairs which has induced the political parties and the politicians to participate in the elections amid the third wave of coronavirus risking their lives and the lives of the voters as well. There is a forecast that this third wave of coronavirus will end soon and it will not surface again and therefore it would have been in the interest of the political parties, politicians, contesting candidates and the general public as the voters to have postponed the elections till the time the situation improves and coronavirus subsides and it would have been in the interest of all the stakeholders. Further, this time it is the election with a difference because of the different restrictions imposed by the election commission upon the contesting candidates, their supporters and the general public all of whom have to abide by the directions of the election commission. There is restriction and prohibition on election rallies, road shows, public processions, corner meetings etc. Thus there is no hustle and bustle in these elections and the enthusiasm of the contesting candidates and their supporters is at its very low due to many restrictions imposed upon the different stakeholders during electioneering. Thus this election is an election with a difference as the contesting candidates will not be able to influence the prospective voters and the voters will also exhibit passiveness and indifference. In such an atmosphere the electoral democracy loses its meanings as the candidates are barred from canvassing through rallies, road shows, corner meetings and only canvassing through mobiles and electronic and print media is allowed. Since election is the festival of democracy and it should be celebrated with great pomp and show. This pomp and show and enthusiasm of the candidates and their supporters is absent during these elections because of the number of restrictions imposed by the election commission and the election fervor is also missing because of the threat of the coronavirus. In brief one can say that the elections to five state assemblies should have been postponed due to the threat and risk of coronavirus.
(The author is retired Education Officer