India extends ban on public events in election states as Covid cases rise

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File photo of a supporter of India's main opposition Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) attending a rally being addressed by Gujarat's Chief Minister and Hindu nationalist Narendra Modi, the prime ministerial candidate for BJP, ahead of the 2014 general elections, at Meerut in
File photo of a supporter of India’s main opposition Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) attending a rally being addressed by Gujarat’s Chief Minister and Hindu nationalist Narendra Modi, the prime ministerial candidate for BJP, ahead of the 2014 general elections, at Meerut in

NEW DELHI, Jan 15 — India’s election commission extended its ban on political rallies and roadshows in five states today due to rising Covid-19 cases in the country.

The ban, which runs to January 22, excludes indoor political party events of less than 300 people, or at 50 per cent of a venue’s capacity, the watchdog said in a statement.

India reported 268,833 new coronavirus cases in the last 24 hours, taking its total tally to 36.84 million, according to data from the federal health ministry. Deaths from Covid-19 rose by 402 to 485,752.

Uttar Pradesh, India’s most populous state and a key battleground for Prime Minister Narendra Modi, will hold elections starting next month. The poll in the northern state, which is currently ruled by Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party, is seen a barometer for national elections due in 2024.

The northern states of Punjab and Uttarakhand, tourist hotspot Goa and the north-eastern state of Manipur will also hold elections in coming months.

Modi’s government faced criticism last year for its handling of the pandemic during a second wave that overran healthcare systems across the country. — Reuters