How will COVID-19’s affect the upcoming elections in India?
As of March 25, 2020, the Central Government of India imposed a national lockdown in the fight against the novel coronavirus pandemic.
The absence of vaccines against the disease has required a long period of social distancing and various measures that will change the Indian poll forever. Without mass vaccination, rallies would be a risk of loss.
Why does an election create a threat?
The spread of the novel coronavirus in India has quickened in the last few days with new cases of Covid-19 and deaths reported every day. The epidemic has expanded its footprint in the country and has affected more than 7.94 lakh people since the first positive case was confirmed on January 30 in Kerala.
Some experts say that the COVID-19 pandemic could last for two years. The COVID-19 pandemic is a big threat to the established world order. It is quickly transforming fragile and vulnerable into the name of public safety. How India, a large and well-established democracy, responds to this crisis is the biggest challenge before it.
Covid-19 will alter Indian political life
Covid-19 pandemic has the potential of not just redefining the rules and the balance of power in the international system, but altering the boundary of Indian political life.
Covid-19 will shape the legacies of governments and leaders, it may alter how elections are fought, what citizens demand, and what political parties will need to deliver; and it will re-establish the primacy of the government in everyday lives.
Pandemic and Politics
Bihar, West Bengal, Tamil Nadu, Kerala, Punjab, Uttar Pradesh and Gujarat are the major states going to the polls between 2020 and 2022. In these elections, the government will be evaluated on its response to the pandemic, the wider public health infrastructure, and the state of the Indian economy.
Keeping in mind, the safety of senior citizens amid rising cases of the coronavirus, the age limit for voters to opt for a postal ballot in LokSabha and assembly elections has been reduced. After the coronavirus outbreak in India, Bihar will be the first state to have assembly polls. And voters of Bihar will be the first to benefit from the amended rules.
In the wake of the pandemic, some critics have pointed to a temporary reduction of conventional politics in India. However, the way the crisis is being handled is itself intensely political.
There is an effort by the Central government to show that the pandemic, particularly the number of destruction and infections is under control and by state governments to do the same even if that means massaging numbers.
Through various options of virtual and e-voting are being discussed, they are all in the emerging stage. According to sources, the elections will be large and seen traditionally, though people will have to maintain social distancing norms while queuing up at polling booths. Virtual voting may be tried in a few assembly seats as a test case.
Artificial Intelligence can also be used in future election campaigns. All the digital devices you use today can tell a lot about your personality. Your location, your thoughts, your shopping habits, and even your health can be easily established.
There may not be any need to hold rallies for the election campaigns in the future as all promotional material could be made available to people on their mobile phone, which will probably become the arena of election rallies.
The example of future changes was also witnessed in the recently held elections in South Korea, where all polling booths were sanitized before voting, and the body temperature of voters was checked. Those who had symptoms of coronavirus were sent directly to the test after casting their votes.
The Election Commission of India is also analyzing the model of South Korea, but it will not be easy to follow social distancing for crores of voters in India. So the question is what can be done then.
For this, the help of Artificial Intelligence, Online campaign, and Digital Technology will be taken. The use of digital technology has been witnessed during the election campaign in the last few years, but now the election campaign will have to be completely handed over to these technologies.
Better late than never, the government must take mitigation measures to ensure that the election process goes safely and smoothly, and result in a democratic event never before seen in the history of the nation – a safe election for all.
The people of India must also be required to follow a strict protocol, as their cooperation is very much required in any process that involves their commitment, let alone such an event. Once in five years, people get to choose who represents their community and constituency. And now is the time for those representatives to exhibit the reason why they can be trusted by their sectional communities, and others.