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Congress election rallies ‘on hold’ as party assesses Covid situation amid criticism

Uttar Pradesh, Punjab, Goa, Uttarakhand and Manipur are set to go to polls in February-March this year. Congress has a stake in all but one.

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New Delhi: The Congress party Wednesday put its election rallies and other big events involving large public gatherings “temporarily on hold” as Covid-19 numbers surge in the country due to the third wave of the pandemic, party sources told ThePrint.

Uttar Pradesh, Punjab, Goa, Uttarakhand and Manipur are set to go to polls in February-March this year. 

Except in Uttar Pradesh where the Congress isn’t a significant political force, the party has a lot at stake in other four states. While it is the ruling party in Punjab, it’s the principal opposition party in the other three states. 

The move comes as political parties across the spectrum have been severely criticised for holding public rallies with massive gatherings in the poll-bound states at a time when rates of Covid infection in the country are increasing exponentially. The Congress has also come in for criticism for holding marathons for girls in Uttar Pradesh.


Also read: Many in BJP want Meghalaya Governor Malik out, but will ‘bear with him at least till’ UP polls


‘Monitoring the numbers’

Sources in the Congress party privy to the developments told ThePrint that rallies and other events that may attract large crowds like marathons and public meetings have been temporarily stopped as the party tries to “assess the Covid situation”.

“Rallies and other election events have not been cancelled but have been put on hold temporarily as we try to assess the COVID situation. We are closely monitoring the numbers and based on our assessment, we will take a call nationally on whether to continue with the public rallies and events or find other ways to conduct our campaign,” a Congress functionary said on condition of anonymity.

“The decision, if any, will be for all election-bound states and not just for the big states like Uttar Pradesh and Punjab,” the functionary added.

“We are looking at the Election Commission (EC) for directives on Covid protocols that should be put in place and followed by all parties,” said a second Congress leader, adding that an official announcement from the party can be expected soon.

What happened the last time

In April last year, as the second wave of Covid hit the country during assembly elections in West Bengal, Congress leader Rahul Gandhi was the first to call off his rallies in the state.

“I would advise all political leaders to think deeply about the consequences of holding large public rallies under the current circumstances,” Gandhi had tweeted.

The EC, thereafter, formulated revised rules for political campaigning during the Covid surge, restricting political rallies to 500 people and disallowing motor and bike rallies, among other measures. Political campaigning was also banned between 7 pm and 10 am in four phases of the eight-phased assembly election.


Also read: More trouble for Punjab Congress as Sidhu slams govt on Majithia, Deputy CM Randhawa hits back


 

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