New Delhi, March 24 (IANS) The Election Commission (EC) on Tuesday announced deferment of March 26 biennial polls to 18 seats in the Rajya Sabha in view of the current state of lockdown in many parts of the country on account of novel coronavirus threat.
The EC took the decision based on feedback regarding restrictions imposed in 32 states in the backdrop of COVID-19 disease which has claimed 10 deaths and infection to over 500 people across the country.
The biennial elections for 18 seats from Andhra Pradesh, Gujarat, Jharkhand, Madhya Pradesh, Manipur, Meghalaya and Rajasthan were to be conducted on March 26 and the date before which election was to be completed as earlier announced by the commission was March 30.
The States of Andhra Pradesh, Gujarat, Jharkhand, Madhya Pradesh, Manipur, Meghalaya and Rajasthan have issued orders of lockdown to contain the transmission of COVID-19.
“Commission has reviewed in detail the matter. The prevailing unforeseen situation of public health emergency indicates the need for avoidance of possibilities of gatherings of any nature, which expose all concerned to possible health hazard.
“The poll process in the above said elections would necessarily include the gathering of polling officials, agents of political parties, support officials and members of respective Legislative Assemblies on the poll day, which may not be suitable in view of the prevailing unforeseen situation and related advisories in the country,” the EC said.
Section 153 of the Representation of the People Act, 1951 specifies that the Election Commission for reasons which it considers sufficient, may extend the time for the completion of any election by making necessary amendments in the notification issued by it under section 30 or sub-section (1) of section 39; and accordingly, the Election Commission has deferred the poll and extended the period of the Rajya Sabha election.
The list of contesting candidates, already published for the said elections by the respective Returning Officers shall remain valid for the purposes of remaining activities, as prescribed under the said notification, the EC said
“Fresh date of poll and counting for the said biennial elections shall be announced in due course after reviewing the prevailing situation,” it said.
On March 11, World Health Organization declared Novel Coronavirus or COVID-19 a global pandemic. Ministry of Health and Family Affairs and Department of Personnel and Training have issued various guidelines and instructions to monitor and contain the transmisSion of COVID-19.
The Centre on March 22 asked all the state governments to take all measures to break the chain of transmission which includes suspension of all train services, sub urban rail services, closure of all activities except essential services such as hospitals, telecom, medicine shops and provision stores till March 31.
Election Commission had declared polls to 55 Rajya Sabha seats on February 25. Another bypoll was announced later to fill the vacancy caused by resignation of BJP MP Birender Singh. Polling for all seats was scheduled for March 26.
After 37 candidates were elected unopposed and nomination papers of a TMC candidate for a West Bengal seat was rejected due to technical reasons, polls to 18 seats, “four each in Gujarat and Andhra Pradesh, three each in Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh, two in Jharkhand and one each in Manipur and Meghalaya” are now due.