The State Election Commission (SEC) said on Thursday that the municipal elections in Telangana will be held as scheduled on April 30, but imposed further restrictions on electioneering in view of the increasing Covid-19 cases in the State.

In the latest order issued by the SEC, no rallies, public meetings, street plays, among other forms of campaign, will be permitted from 7 pm to 8 am beginning Thursday. Besides, campaigning for the seven ULBs going to polls will come to an end 72 hours before polling as against the normal 48 hours.

These decisions were taken after some political parties appealed to the SEC to postpone the elections, citing the rising Covid-19 cases across the State.

The SEC said electioneering will conclude at 5 pm on April 27. It said that several instances of blatant violations of Covid guidelines including physical distancing and wearing of face masks had been brought to its notice.

Taking a serious view of repeated violations of Covid protocol by star campaigners, political leaders and candidates, the SEC observed that it was necessary to curtail electioneering for the seven ULBs and nine casual vacancy wards.

Regarding the plea for postponement of municipal elections, the SEC hinted that Assembly elections were in progress in a few States in the country.

In Telangana, elections are being conducted for seven ULBs and nine casual vacancy wards, which have limited number of voters, when compared to Assembly elections, an SEC official said.

Further, all the guidelines including those to be followed by political parties during electioneering, by voters while casting their vote and by the staff at polling stations have already been issued according top priority to public health concerns.

These guidelines issued by the SEC are supplementary to those issued by Ministry of Home Affairs, Central and State Government and others to contain the spread of the virus.

More importantly, there have been several instances in the past when the Election Commission conducted elections despite appeals by political parties to cancel or postpone the elections, presenting the rules and other precautions in place. All the measures to safeguard the health of voters and staff are in place, the official said.

The Telangana State Election Commission announced on Thursday said that only five members including the candidate and excluding the security personnel would be allowed to take up door-to-door campaign for the municipal elections in view of the rapidly increasing number of Covid-19 cases.

The convoy of vehicles should be broken after every two vehicles excluding security vehicles, if any. At least 10 metres gap has to be maintained between two sets of convoy of vehicles.

There should be at least 30 minutes gap between road shows of two different political parties or candidates on the same route. Public gathering or rallies may be conducted with strict adherence to Covid guidelines.

The DEOs should identify grounds for public meetings well in advance and with clear markings of entry and exit points. The DEOs should in advance put markers at the identified grounds to ensure physical distancing.

Sector Health Regulators to be deployed to oversee the implementation and adherence of covid guidelines.

Political parties and candidates should ensure adherence of covid protocols like physical distancing, wearing masks etc during entire elections process.

It is the responsibility of organisers of public meetings to provide masks and sanitisers to every person attending the meetings.

Any violations or failure to follow Covid-19 guidelines will be dealt sternly, including criminal action.

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