RJD Asks EC to Defer Bihar Polls Due to Coronavirus

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Clarion India

PATANA – After NDA ally Lok Janshakti Party (LJP), the RJD (Rashtriya Janata Dal), in an official letter to the Election Commission, has questioned the need to hold polls when lives are at stake and demanded polling through ballot papers, if they are held on time.

In a letter dated July 30, RJD national general secretary Abdul Bari Siddiqui cited the infection of the Covid-19 to the BJP leaders pointing to the threat of holding elections amid the pandemic.

“…while conducting a virtual rally, the state president of BJP, vice-president and 75 other members were found COVID-positive and the building was sealed. Because of COVID, political leaders of various parties have unfortunately died. During election training, one principal died of COVID, and during movement of EVM’s in Begusarai, 10 personnel have been infected,” the letter was quoted by the Indian Express as saying.

However, the RJD advocated for holding the elections by paper ballot if necessary. It said the idea in the face of “research that shows that coronavirus stays on plastic and metal surfaces for days”.

The RJD stated: “Studies and research show that that virus stays for several days on plastic and metal surfaces. In such a situation will elections by EVM be able to stop the danger of virus spread? Will paper ballots not be a safer alternative? If a decision is made to hold elections, then for public health and interest they should be held by paper ballots.”

Manoj Jha, RJD national spokesperson and Rajya Sabha member, said, “This is a strong suggestion (to hold the polls through ballot papers) from RJD keeping in view the kind of research reports we have come across about metal surfaces and plastic surfaces.”

In the letter, Siddiqui called the Covid-19 situation in Bihar “very worrisome”, and pointed out that positivity rate between July 15 and 30 was 15.9 per cent, double the national average.

The RJD also asked the EC to reduce the limit of people per booth if elections are held. Pointing out that the Commission has said there will be 1,000 voters per booth, Siddiqui wrote that the upper limit per booth should be 250 voters to maintain adequate physical distancing.

Jha said it is up to EC to satisfy itself and the people on the points RJD has raised. “If they (EC) are insuring government employees and security personnel, they should also insure voters, because they (voters) will also be at great risk. Once these things are done, let us see how it unfolds from EC. But we want a commitment on that.”

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