'Ill thought out': Trinamool hits out at EC COVID guidelines for agents, candidates

NEW DELHI: The TMC has termed a recent Election Commission notification listing COVID protocols for counting agents in the ongoing Assembly polls as “ill-thought out”, pointing out several contradictions in the order.

In the order, the EC has given directions for submission of a negative COVID test report of an election agent, counting agent and/or candidate before they are permitted to enter the counting hall.

“However, the time mandated for providing such a negative report has been stated as within 48 hours of start of counting, which effectively means by May 4, 2021.

Please clarify your intentions,” the TMC said in a letter addressed to the poll body.

It also said that while the EC has mandated candidates to submit a list of counting agents by 1700 hours on April 29, as per directions, there is a provision for replacement of such counting agent “in case report is positive”.

“In other words, if one of the counting agents whose name has been given as per directions is found to be COVID-19 positive, in such a case please clarify what would be the procedure and time frame for replacement of such counting agent.

“We call upon you to immediately address the aforesaid concerns and clarify the same,” the Bengal party said.

Candidates or their agents will not be allowed inside counting halls without a negative coronavirus report or without having both COVID-19 vaccine doses, the Election Commission said on Wednesday in its latest guidelines for counting of votes on May 2.

Issued amid spiralling coronavirus cases, the guidelines bar public gatherings outside venues during the counting process, but allow candidates to name a fresh agent if the first one tests positive for COVID-19.

Counting of votes for assembly polls in Assam, West Bengal, Tamil Nadu, Kerala and Puducherry, besides various other assemblies and Lok Sabha bypolls begins at 8 am on May 2.

“No candidates or agents will be allowed inside the counting hall without undergoing RT-PCR/RAT test or without having two doses of vaccination against COVID-19 and will have to produce negative RT-PCR report or RAT report or vaccination reports within 48 hours of start of counting,” the guidelines read.