Elections in UP, Punjab, 3 other states set to begin on Feb 10

iNDICA News Bureau

The Election Commission of India, the independent statutory authority that conducts parliamentary and assembly elections throughout the country, announced Jan 8 the dates for polling in five states – Uttar Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Punjab, Manipur and Goa – to elect their new assemblies and, by extension, governments.

The elections will be held between Feb 10 and Mar 7 in as many as seven phases (in Uttar Pradesh, the country’s largest state in terms of population, assembly seats and representation in Parliament) and counting of votes will take place on Mar 10, the commission said.

The term of the Uttar Pradesh assembly ends in May. The term of the assemblies in the other four states ends in March. Four of the states are ruled by the Bharatiya Janata Party. Punjab is the only state of the five where the Congress is in power.

The commission also barred all road shows and rallies till Jan 15 as a precaution, given the alarming rise in number of COVID-19 cases. “Later on, physical rallies may be allowed with restrictions depending on the situation,” Chief Election Commissioner Sushil Chandra said.

The CEC advised political parties and candidates to conduct their campaigns virtually as far as possible and said the expenditure limit for candidates has been increased to facilitate this.

While the expenditure limit for Lok Sabha candidates has been increased to Rs 9.5 million (from Rs 7 million), for assembly candidates it has been raised to Rs 4 million from Rs 2.8 million. Currently, a dollar is worth about Rs 75.

Last year, the commission had come under intense criticism for allowing election rallies during the eight-phase West Bengal assembly election when the country was in the grip of the second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic.