The Election Commission of India (ECI) on Thursday banned road shows and vehicle rallies as well as large public meetings with more than 500 people for the remaining phases of the West Bengal Assembly elections after finding that political parties and candidates were flouting COVID-19 guidelines.

The Election Commission said in an order that it “noted with anguish that many political parties/candidates are still not adhering to the prescribed safety norms during the public gatherings and this is making difficult for the State/dstrict election machineries to enforce the aforesaid directions fully”.

Starting 7 p.m. on Thursday, the EC said no road show/padyatras; cycle, bike and vehicle rallies; and public meetings with more than 500 people would be allowed.

“Permission for road show, cycle/bike/vehicle rally, if granted already, stands withdrawn. Permission for public meeting, if granted already, stands modified to the extent above,” the EC said.

The ECI had issued guidelines for polling and campaigning during the pandemic in August 2020 and extended the same for the West Bengal, Assam, Puducherry, Tamil Nadu and Kerala elections.

After finding violations of the guidelines, including on social distancing and mask-wearing, the EC had issued a warning to parties on April 9. It had banned rallies, public meetings, street plays and nukkad sabhas from 7 pm to 10 am starting April 16 and extended the silence period from 48 hours before polling to 72 hours, reducing the campaigning period. The EC had warned political parties again on Wednesday.


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