Should Bihar Hold Elections During a Pandemic?

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The Essence of Democracy

'ELECTION IS THE ESSENCE OF DEMOCRACY'. The election is one essential feature of democracy that separates it from other forms of government. Through the election, the public elects its representatives for the upcoming five years so that they can continue to work as earlier.

Without the formation of a stable government, everything from the law and order, welfare schemes to the development work of the government may hamper and go in vain. So it goes without saying that the conduction of election on due time is compulsory for the betterment of the society and the good health of democracy.

But is it ineluctable to conduct election even when this kind of deadly contagious Corona pandemic is going on? Is it indispensable to conduct an election when millions of lives may get at stake because of this?

Should the Election Commission of India avoid the included risk of the election at this time and put the lives of innocent people at risk and do it anyway? Should the government support the ECI (Election Commission of India) to conduct the election at the cost of so many poor lives?

The first case of COVID-19 pandemic in India was on the 30th of January, since then it has been growing at immense speed, as of 16th July it has crossed a million cases in India alone. Bihar is the first state to have an election in October this year followed by Delhi and West Bengal in early next year.

Nevertheless, because of the pandemic and the potential impact that election can cause in spreading the virus, there have been rising demands by the opposition to hold the election until the situation gets normal. ECI has already announced the date of the Bihar election in October 2020.

Divided Opinion

Now, there are two factions in the political corridor, i.e. one who is in favor of election and the other in against the same. Both are giving their logic to support their argument.

The parties who are in power are in favor of the conduction of election on time and those who are in opposition are opposing the election in current circumstances, while some are saying the decision should be made by the Election Commission of India and we should rely on them.

These parties too have their stake who are in favor or against the election respectively.

Those political parties who are saying that the election should happen on time are the ones who are organizing virtual rallies via the internet and they have some edge over the opposition who cannot afford to organize virtual rallies and are in favor of postponing the election.

Apart from political reasons, those who are in favor are citing the example of the U.S.A. that they are going to have a presidential election in November 2020. If America can have, the election then why cannot Bihar? But let us not forget the ground reality. Can we compare Bihar or for that, any other states of India with the U.S.?

The difference in literacy rate, health infrastructure, resources of Bihar, and the U.S. cannot be compared. Let alone compared with the U.S.A., the number of beds, ventilators, oxygen and other health facilities of Bihar are among the lowest in the country according to the ratio of its population.

The proponents of the election are also saying that the election can be done on one day instead of several days, which usually happens to avoid the chaos. However, it is to be seen what decisions the ECI would take on this.

Currently, Bihar is seeing a quick surge in coronavirus cases and it is increasing rapidly. Bihar is on the verge of becoming the next hotspot of corona in the country.

This is when the testing ratio in Bihar is lower than in many other states. If testing is increased then many more cases may come than the current data, which is shown by the government.

Amidst this challenging environment, according to the opponents of the election, the state simply cannot afford to go through the ordeal of the election. If it happens then it would prove to be the mass spreader event and would attract the attention of the world.

Problems Aplenty

The voting percent may also be very low because people would fear to step outside the house and be the part of the crowd so that they can avoid making physical contact with any COVID patient(s). 

If election happens at its scheduled time then not only the common peoples' lives would be in danger but also the lives of the thousands of staff of the election commission, political party workers, etc would be jeopardized.

Hence, the Election Commission of India should consider all the available options before arriving at any decision. The government might be given an extension for 6 months or a year; the president's rule can also be imposed in those states where the current term of the government is complete. 

The person sitting in power must not forget that nothing is more important than the lives of the people. They should not play with the lives of innocent people. It is in everyone's best interest to avoid the election for the time being and patiently wait for the right time to conduct the election.

Written by - Chandan Kumar

Edited by - Rudransh Khurana

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