Two days after the Election Commission warned political parties in Bihar against rampant violation of COVID-19 related health guidelines, one glance at separate rallies conducted by Prime Minister Narendra Modi in Sasaram and another by Congress leader Rahul Gandhi in Nawada revealed how supporters at both the gatherings had thrown the much-stressed social distancing norms to the winds.
In a live video streamed on Prime Minister’s Narendra Modi’s YouTube channel, party supporters gathered in large numbers could be seen violating the Election Commission’s guidelines asking for a minimum distance of two feet between two people at physical gatherings.
Throughout the live stream of PM Modi’s rally, supporters flouting social distancing norms could be seen cheering \ the leaders gathered on the dais, including PM Modi and Chief Minister Nitish Kumar, while security personnel in Khaki did little to set the crowd in order.
Similarly, in a live video streamed by the Indian National Congress on YouTube, those gathered in Rahul Gandhi’s joint rally with RJD leader Tejashwi Yadav could be seen in utter violation of the health precautions issued by the EC. While many were seated on chairs at the venue, several others had positioned themselves atop a building.
While most supporters at PM Modi’s rally could be seen wearing a mask, many had in fact pulled it down, rending the mask ineffective. Among a slew of guidelines issued by the Election Commission, wearing of masks is compulsory for physical gathering in Bihar.
At Gandhi’s joint rally, however, several supporters did not wear a mask to begin with, apart from failing to keep two feet distance from one another.
Interestingly, while a set of supporters at PM Modi’s rally were shown violating COVID-19 guidelines, another set, as shown in the same live stream, were not only seated at a distance from one another, but also had worn masks, covering their nose and mouth.
It is not clear whether these abiding set of supporters were seated right at the front of the podium or towards the rear.
Social distancing norms, however, were on full display at the stage where each of the six leaders were seated at a distance and had worn masks – the only exception being the time when both PM Modi and CM Nitish had pulled their masks down while addressing the crowd.
While Gandhi and most other people on stage at the Congress-RJD rally seemingly practiced social distancing, Tejashwi Yadav could be seen without a mask, occasionally covering his face with a towel while interacting with Gandhi, seated next to him.
EC Had Warned Political Parties
The Election Commission on 21 October, warned of strong action against political parties if pre-existing instructions and guidelines on crown-management and other COVID-19-related health precautions are not followed during the campaign period.
"“The Commission has taken a serious view of the laxity on the part of political parties and candidates, on the ground, in terms of maintaining crowd discipline, and hereby reiterates and further advises them to demonstrate utmost vigil and care during electioneering.”" - Election Commission
In order to ensure compliance, the commission also instructed the Bihar Chief Electoral Officer and other district election officials to invoke “appropriate and relevant penal provisions” under the Disaster Management Act and the IPC against those candidates violating health norms.
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