It is absolutely important that the political eco-system devise new ways of contesting polls in the present Covid times. Elections are approaching in Uttarakhand and other states, leading to increased political activity – particularly street rallies, demonstrations and meetings. All kinds of outfits that have no real representation in elected bodies are also coming out to make their presence felt. The behaviour seen on the approaches to the Vidhan Sabha in Dehradun during the Monsoon Session shows how little regard is being given to the dangers of another Covid wave. The politicians’ desperation can be understood as they do not wish to give any advantage to the rivals by exercising restraint.
This begs the question as to why such public demonstrations are thought necessary to obtain support in this age of social media and other means of publicising political agendas. Whatever be the reason, there is need for intervention by, either the Election Commission or the Courts, to restrain such activity. The problem threatens to magnify in the context of the coming festivals that may potentially see large gatherings of people. It should not be forgotten that despite the decline in the number of cases in much of India, Covid holding out in some states, particularly Kerala and Maharashtra. The Kerala situation is being attributed to the relaxations given by the state government during the religious festivals of Eid and Onam. This cannot under any circumstances be repeated in other parts of the country.
There is the belief that the substantial number of people vaccinated and those with immunity due to exposure to the virus are responsible for reduced rates of infection in most states. However, going by the experience of countries like the US and UK, this by no means guarantees safety. With a highly populated state like UP also heading for the polls, one can only imagine what could happen if lack of discipline and restraint becomes the norm.
State governments as well as political parties should come to some kind of an understanding on how these gatherings are to be contained. It would be criminally short-sighted to put religious or political interests above the people’s health. Hopefully, the necessary initiatives will be taken soon in this regard by all those concerned. Of course, nothing better than the general public ensuring precautions against the virus are not relaxed in any way.