New Delhi [India], Aug 21 (ANI): The Congress said on Friday that Election Commission's guidelines for the conduct of elections during COVID-19 "fall far short" for the conduct of free and fair elections.
In a statement, party general secretary KC Venugopal said the poll panel "has overlooked almost all the suggestions given".
He said the guidelines "are inadequate in dealing with the challenge of COVID-19".
He said the Congress, after careful consultation, had requested that the use of EVM's be avoided especially given high chances of infection for a very population from shared use of one machine. "This concern is easily avoided with the use of paper ballots," he said.
"The ECI has completely failed to address this concern, instead opting to passively state that EVM's and VVPAT's will be sanitized. As the last six months have established, this is not a fool-proof measure," he said.
Venugopal said the guidelines do not make any deep distinctions between the specific challenges of rural areas and urban areas "which have seen the spread of COVID-19 in very different ways".
"The ECI has left this to the discretion of state officials instead. The ECI must provide for detailed guidelines and not leave the safety and wellbeing of the voters to the differing interpretations and largess of local authorities," he said
The Congress leader said the guidelines state that relevant provisions of the Disaster Management Act, 2005 and the Indian Penal Code will be invoked against anyone who violates the said guidelines.
"However, the ECI has surprisingly missed the potential for abuse by the ruling party which controls the policing machinery. For example, where members of a crowd in a political gathering violate the rules, how does the ECI ensure that the candidate will be indemnified from unjust penalty or harassment?" he asked.
He said the Election Commission should revisit the recommendations made by the Congress and invite all political parties for a comprehensive discussion where these issues can be discussed in a transparent and effective manner.
"In case the ECI falters in this bounden duty the consequences for democracy would be catastrophic," Venugopal said. (ANI)