Why hold Bihar polls amid Covid; if done on time, use ballot box to cut threat: RJD to EC.

Patna: Even as several political parties in Bihar, including NDA ally LJP, have urged the Election Commission of India (EC) to defer Assembly elections scheduled later this year, in an official communication to the poll panel, the RJD 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 offered the idea in the face of “research that shows that coronavirus stays on plastic and metal surfaces for days.”

“This (letter) is the official response of RJD to EC when they solicited opinion on holding elections,” Manoj Jha, RJD national spokesperson and Rajya Sabha member, told The Indian Express.

In its letter, RJD has pointed out the worsening Covid-19 situation in Bihar, rejected the idea of virtual campaigning by maintaining that the method does not allow a level playing field, and urged EC to take a decision that saves the health of both people and democracy.

Asked whether the poll panel is considering the idea of RJD, a senior EC official said, “That (ballot box) is a closed chapter. We are not considering it.”

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The RJD, however, 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.”

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

The letter stated: “…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 in Begusarai, 10 personnel have been infected.”

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.

Later speaking to us on phone, Dr. Tanweer Hassan, State Vice President of RJD said that His Party has a humanistic and logical stand on conducting the election in the state. He also urged the people in government to think about the voters and the society around them.