With AAP, Capt in fray Punjab no more a Cong-SAD duel

With AAP, Capt in fray Punjab no more a Cong-SAD duel

As the Election Commission of India announced dates for the assembly polls, Punjab is likely to see a five-cornered contest this election, a marked shift from a traditional duel between the Congress and the Shiromani Akali Dal.

IMAGE: Punjab Lok Congress founder and former Punjab Chief Minister Captain Amarinder Singh with Union Minister Gajendra Singh Shekhawat during a meeting, in New Delhi on Friday. Photograph: ANI Photo

Assembly elections in Uttar Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Punjab, Manipur, and Goa will be held between February 10 and March 7 in seven phases with counting of votes on March 10, the Election Commission announced on Saturday.

Punjab has a total of 117 assembly seats.

It is going to be a keenly-watched contest with the Congress, the AAP, the SAD-BSP alliance, and the BJP-PLC-SAD (Sanyukt) battling to form the government in the state, with a probable entry of farmers’ front in the form of Sanyukt Samaj Morcha.


Nineteen farmer bodies, which participated in a protest against the Centre’s three farm laws, have also declared to test electoral waters.

Whether they contest all assembly seats, it is yet to be seen.

Punjab’s political landscape witnessed major changes in the last more than one year with the Shiromani Akali Dal breaking its ties with the BJP over the farm laws issue and stitching a new alliance with the Bahujan Samaj Party.

After facing heat over the farm laws, the SAD in September 2020 quit the National Democratic Alliance and Harsimrat Kaur Badal resigned from the union cabinet.

The SAD in June 2021 formed an alliance with the Mayawati-led BSP under which, the Akalis will fight on 97 seats and BSP on 20 seats.

After the Akali Dal parted ways, the BJP, which used to contest on 23 seats, forged an alliance with former chief minister Amarinder Singh’s Punjab Lok Congress and Sukhdev Singh Dhindsa-led Shiromani Akali Dal (Sanyukt).

Amarinder Singh was made to resign as the Chief Minister by the Congress last year over his bitter power tussle with Punjab Congress chief Navjot Singh Sidhu. Later he decided to form his own party.

The Aam Aadmi Party, which is the main opposition party in Punjab, has announced to go alone.

The SAD and the AAP have announced their candidates for the polls. The former has named candidates for over 90 assembly seats while the latter has declared names of 104 contestants.

The Congress is yet to declare any candidate, though deliberations within the party’s screening committee are underway.

A decision regarding the seat-sharing arrangement was yet to be made by the BJP-PLC-SAD (Sanyukt).

All the major political parties are trying to woo voters with freebies and other promises.

While the AAP is hard-selling Arvind Kejriwal’s Delhi model of governance, it has also made several promises such as 300 units of free power and Rs 1,000 per month to every woman of Punjab.

With its 13-point charter, the Akali Dal has made promises including free power up to 400 units per month for all households, Rs 2,000 per month to women heads of “blue card” holder families (indicating below poverty line), and a Rs 10 per litre reduction in price of diesel for agriculture consumers.

Congress leader Sidhu has promised Rs 2,000 per month for women homemakers, as well as eight free cooking gas cylinders to them every year.

The party has also promised two-wheelers to girls taking admission in colleges and also some cash amount.

Unemployment, drug menace, delivery of justice in the sacrilege incidents, exodus of youth abroad, ballooning debt, and corruption are the major issues this election.

In 2017 Punjab assembly polls, the Congress had ended the SAD-BJP combine’s ten-year regime by bagging 77 seats out of the total 117-assembly segments in the state.

The AAP had managed to get 20 seats, the SAD-BJP won 18 seats, and two seats went into the kitty of Lok Insaaf Party (LIP).

The Congress had got 38.5 per cent voting share, Shiromani Akali Dal 25.2 per cent, AAP 23.7 per cent, BJP 5.4 per cent, and BSP 1.5 per cent.

After by-elections at some seats, the Congress at present has 80 seats, AAP 17, SAD 14, BJP 2, LIP 2, while Bholath and Jaito seats remain vacant.

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Albania party supporters clash over leader

Albania party supporters clash over leader

Albanian opposition supporters have clashed with each other as they tried to storm their party headquarters following an internal fight for the party leadership.

Former leader Sali Berisha of the main opposition Democratic Party has created a grouping trying to move the party leader Lulzim Basha from the post, accusing him of being a “hostage” of Prime Minister Edi Rama of the Socialist Party.

“Today the Democrats and Albania’s democrats will turn the bunker of hostage (Lulzim) Basha into their house of freedom,” Berisha said.

Protesters stormed the ground floor of the building, using iron bars to open the main door and breaking windows.

Tear gas was used from inside the building to move them away.

At least one injured person was seen.

Following a request from the Democratic Party, police intervened using a water cannon truck and anti-riot police officers to push protesters away from the building.

Some protesters were taken away, detained by police.

“Today’s acts of violence against the Democratic Party mark Sali Berisha’s final isolation and a shameful move out of the political scene,” a party statement said.

Basha fired Berisha from the parliamentary group in September, which sparked an internal party fight between them.

That followed an intervention in May by US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, who said in a statement that during Berisha’s 2005-2013 tenure as prime minister, the politician “was involved in corrupt acts… using his power for his own benefit and to enrich his political allies and his family members,” interfering in “independent investigations, anti-corruption efforts, and accountability measures”.

Blinken said that Berisha’s “corrupt acts undermined democracy in Albania”.

In December Berisha’s grouping claimed to have held a referendum removing Basha from his post but the move was not recognised by the official Democratic Party.

Berisha, 77, served as Albania’s prime minister from 2005 until 2013 and as president from 1992-1997.

He was re-elected as an MP for the Democratic Party in last April’s parliamentary election.

US ambassador in Tirana Yuri Kim expressed concern at the “rising tensions” at the Democrats’ building and called on protesters “to reject violence and exercise calm”.

“Those inciting violence or undermining the rule of law will be held accountable,” she posted in Twitter.

Last month US Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Gabriel Escobar said there would be “consequences” if the Democratic Party chose someone to be leader who had been designated persona non grata by the US.

Berisha is the fourth top Albanian official to be barred from entering the United States because of alleged involvement in corruption.

Fighting corruption has been post-communist Albania’s Achilles’ heel, strongly affecting the country’s democratic, economic and social development.

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Matter-related smart home announcements from CES 2022

Matter-related smart home announcements from CES 2022

Two years ago, on the floor of CES 2020, there was a lot of buzz about a chip — not the latest AMD or Intel announcement, but a new alliance of major tech companies that called itself Project Connected Home over IP, or CHIP for short. Its promise was to develop an open-source smart home standard that would make every connected home device work together, simply and securely, regardless of who made them. The buzz was: “That’s never gonna happen.”

Fast forward to CES 2022 (yeah, we all skipped 2021) and Matter — as CHIP is now called — was the darling of the show, with a full dance card and a line of admirers that stretched to the virtual Starbucks.

Practically every smart home device announcement this week had the tagline “and we announce our support for Matter.” Plus, the infrastructure gained significant support. There were new chips designed for Matter, Amazon announced device makers can now add Frustration-Free Setup on their Matter-certified devices with just the Matter SDK— no Amazon-specific SDK required. And Google showed off its own version of a simplified setup, Fast Pair with built-in support for Matter. Both these announcements mean that as developers build new smart home products, all you’ll have to do once you get them home is plug them in and they’ll be ready to go.

“The wave of Matter news at CES from our CSA members is a testament to the hard work that has gone into the development and testing of Matter in 2021,” Tobin Richardson, president of the Connectivity Standards Alliance that oversees Matter, told me during the show. “Hundreds of companies and thousands of engineers are at the heart of this global solution, creating a more open and innovative IoT, and I’m really excited by what is to come in 2022.”

The other interesting announcement was confirmation from Amazon that Alexa will share your smart home with other voice assistants. The main promise of Matter has been cross-platform compatibility, that you will be able to control your smart devices with the app or voice assistant of your choice. Now we’re seeing exactly how that will be done.

Amazon introduced new tools for developers that let them add Alexa as an additional way to control a device already set up in another system. While today you can control, say, a Philips Hue lightbulb with multiple apps and voice assistants, you currently have to set it up with each one individually. With Matter, it’ll be one and done. As a nice bonus, this new capability also adds local connectivity to the device, allowing for quicker response times and the chance to use your devices even if the internet is down.

In all, close to 30 companies showcased their involvement and / or pledged their support for the new smart home standard backed by Apple, Google, Amazon, Samsung, and others. Many of whom represent a broader slice of the industry — Tuya Smart, an IoT development platform service provider based in China that supports over 446,000 developers with over 1,100 smart home products, said it will support Matter. We also saw a number of new products debut with Thread, one of the main protocols of Matter.

NXP’s new tri-radio chip (Wi-Fi 6, Bluetooth 5.2, and Thread) is designed for Matter hub devices —Matter Controllers (such as smart speakers) and Thread Border Routers (such as smart displays).
Image: NXP

All of this gives us a much better feel for what Matter will bring with it when it finally arrives, it’s currently scheduled for June 2022. But let’s take a step back and assess now that CES is over and we’re faced with a bleak mid-winter before Matter gets here.

It seems like there is significant momentum, minimal in-fighting (that we’ve seen), and a clear directive from the consumer and direction for the manufacturers and platforms: We want smart home products to work together. Now make it happen.

The momentum is big enough that it appears to have convinced the major appliance companies of the world to do the same thing. They went off and created their own alliance aimed at making sure your Samsung dishwasher can talk to your GE Appliances fridge. The Home Connectivity Alliance, announced at Samsung’s CES keynote, was specifically formed to make sure legacy home appliances can move into the IoT future, Yoon Ho Choi of Samsung and president of the HCA told me at CES.

This issue of upgradability of existing devices is still an area Matter has largely skirted and one that it really needs to address. There’s been talk about firmware updates for existing hubs and bridges, and we know that the newer Amazon Echo smart speakers and Google Nest Hub devices have an upgrade path.

Amazon has committed to bringing its existing smart speakers and displays into Matter when it arrives.
Image: Amazon

But, based on many of the announcements coming out of CES this week, it is looking increasingly like creating a Matter smart home is going to require users buying a fair number of new gadgets. As Mitch Klein of the Z-Wave Alliance told me late last year, “We can’t leave devices behind, or this whole program won’t work. The idea that everyone has to throw everything out and start again is just not going to work.” It remains imperative that Matter doesn’t leave existing smart homes in the dark.

Which will be the lucky lock?

August and Yale committed to making their smart locks work with Matter. Jason Williams, president of August and Yale Real Living, told me they plan to bring the first Matter lock to market when the standard launches in 2022. The company already has one Thread-enabled lock, the aging Nest x Yale smart lock, and is looking at other ways to introduce the technology, says Williams. While he said its Wi-Fi powered August locks won’t be among the first to be updated (Matter over Wi-Fi is only for hard line-powered devices currently, not battery-powered devices), they are actively looking at ways to bring their existing products into the new smart home standard.

The Schlage Encode Plus smart lock is the company’s first Thread-enabled lock.
Image: Schlage

Schlage may beat Yale to the punch with its new Schlage Encode Plus lock, the company’s first Thread-enabled product. While the Thread radio supports HomeKit over Thread specifically, Donald Beene of Schlage told The Verge that the hardware is there for Matter. “This will be the first [lock] product with the hardware on board to support something like that, but we still don’t know where those tech specs will land,” he said.

All the lights

If you make smart lights, switches, and plugs, Matter was on your mind this week. Belkin Wemo announced its working on Thread versions of the Wemo Smart Plug, Wemo Smart Light Switch, and Wemo Smart Dimmer that will support Matter over Thread. Cync, the GE Lighting company, told me that its color A19 bulb and light strip will be Matter-compatible over Wi-Fi, and smart lighting company Sengled said that it will have its first Wi-Fi A19 bulb ready to go when the standard launches. Nanoleaf, which has been all-in on Thread for over a year now, confirmed at CES that its mains-powered lighting panels, the Nanoleaf Shapes, Elements, and Lines, will become Thread border routers, initially for Thread over HomeKit but with an eye to Matter-compatibility.

Smart home hubs are still here

While Matter should mitigate the whole multiple hub / gateway / bridge issue down to one teeny little box that’s hopefully also your router, that is going to take a while. In the meantime, we’ve still got hubs galore, and going forward, we will need Matter Controllers to act as remote controls for your home (think Google Nest Hub smart displays, but hopefully better).

There were a few new hubs announced this week, including the new Samsung Home Hub, Samsung has committed to adopt Matter across Samsung devices, so when this smart home controller makes it to the US (it’s launching in Korean in March), it’s likely to be part of that. Aqara, makers of inexpensive Zigbee sensors and decent HomeKit cameras that double as hubs, said it will update its M2 and the M1S hubs, making all compatible connected sensors move over to Matter. It also announced it’s developing Thread versions of its popular motion and contact sensors.

Smart home security camera company Arlo announced its home security system, which is based around its “modular hub.” The word modular has us intrigued, as does the company’s decision to finally join Matter. While we’d love to think this is a sign of cameras coming into Matter sooner (they’re currently not part of the Matter spec), the first product of Arlo’s to get Matter support is more likely to be those spiffy new all-in-one sensors.

Speaking of modular, edge-computing company Veea showed off an intriguing smart home hub that it announced will be Matter compatible. The Veea STAX Smart Hub is a Wi-Fi 6 Mesh router and smart home hub in one, with the option of adding LTE or 5G cellular connection through stackable modules. A smart speaker module with directional mics is in the works, and STAX modules also feature Lutron and Philips Hue bridge tech (among others), along with HomeKit and Alexa compatibility. While the initial launch is targeted at communications companies as a white label SHaaS (Smart Home as a service) solution, the company says it will soon be available directly to consumers.

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An opportunity for people to defeat BJP and end price rise, unemployment: Congress on 5 state polls

An opportunity for people to defeat BJP and end price rise, unemployment: Congress on 5 state polls

After the Election Commission announced the schedule for assembly polls in five states, the Congress on Saturday said this is an opportunity for people to defeat the BJP and put an end to unemployment, price rise and atrocities against women and Dalits.

Congress general secretary and chief spokesperson Randeep Surjewala said the party will fight strongly the elections in Uttar Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Goa, Manipur and Punjab, to be held between February 10 and March 7.

He expressed confidence that the party will again win in Punjab and oust the BJP from power in the remaining four states.

Welcoming the Election Commission announcement of the poll schedule, Surjewala said this is an opportunity for the people of these states to defeat the BJP and those forces which are anti-farmer.

He said the people would vote out the BJP to put an end to price rise, atrocities and rising crime against women and Dalits.

“Every Congress worker and leader will contest strongly these elections in five states and will defeat the BJP governments in four states and will retain the Congress government in Punjab,” he told reporters.

“This is a chance to defeat the BJP as well as price rise and inflation. Farmers also have a chance to punish those who retained a union minister despite his and his son’s involvement in the mowing down of farmers in Lakhimpur Kheri.

“The youth also have a chance to defeat the BJP and unemployment. Defeat the BJP and unemployment with “vote ki chot”. Our women also have a chance to defeat the BJP over the atrocities and rising crime against women. Dalits also have a chance in these five states to get themselves freed from the atrocities on Dalits under BJP rule,” he said.

Surjewala said these elections offer a golden opportunity for defeating inflation, rising unemployment, rising crime against women and atrocities against Dalits and those who have an anti-farmer mindset.

“The double-engine governments in UP, Goa, Manipur and Uttarakhand have proved a double failure,” he said.

“We urge the EC to ensure a level-playing field in these elections,” he said.

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assembly election 2022: 5 state elections: No political rallies till January 15 and other big announcements by ECI – The Economic Times Video

assembly election 2022: 5 state elections: No political rallies till January 15 and other big announcements by ECI – The Economic Times Video

The Election Commission of India announced assembly elections in 5 states. While Punjab, Uttarakhand and Goa go to polls in a single phase, Manipur will get over in two phases and Uttar Pradesh polls are divided in 7 phases. This time ECI has taken the path breaking decision to disallow rallies and yatras. Watch the big announcements here.

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For promotional purposes only. Support the artist/s by purchasing their single/album.
“Copyright Disclaimer Under Section 107 of the Copyright Act 1976,
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Fair use is a use permitted by copyright statute that might otherwise be infringing. Non-profit, educational or personal use tips the balance in favor of fair use.”


21, including 9 children, freeze to death at Pak’s popular hill station Murree

21, including 9 children, freeze to death at Pak’s popular hill station Murree

Pakistan’s popular hill station Murree was declared a calamity-hit area on Saturday after at least 21 people, including nine children, froze to death in their vehicles due to unprecedented snowfall and rush of tourists to the picturesque town in Punjab province.

IMAGE: A video grab of the scene at Murree, a popular hill station in Pakistan.

All the routes in Murree in Rawalpindi district were blocked after thousands of vehicles entered the city, leaving the tourists helpless on the roads.

Around 1,000 cars were stuck on the hill station while the Punjab chief minister issued instructions for expediting rescue work and providing aid to the stranded tourists, the Dawn newspaper reported.


According to a list issued by Rescue 1122, at least 21 people died, including nine children, it said.

Prime Minister Imran Khan said he was shocked and upset at the tragic deaths of tourists on the road to Murree.

“Unprecedented snowfall & rush of ppl proceeding without checking weather conditions caught district admin unprepared. Have ordered inquiry & putting in place strong regulation to ensure prevention of such tragedies,” Khan said in a tweet.

The military has been mobilised to clear roads and rescue people still trapped, Interior Minister Sheikh Rashid said in a video message. He said Murree had “seen a huge number of tourists after 15-20 years”, and due to that, a crisis took place.

Rashid said the government was forced to close the road from Islamabad to Murree.

The commissioners of Islamabad and Rawalpindi, deputy commissioners, police, are carrying out rescue operations, he said.

“As many as 1,000 vehicles have been stuck since night […] some have been evacuated; 16-19 deaths took place in cars. The locals provided food and blankets to the stranded people,” Rashid said.

He said the authorities would evacuate 1,000 vehicles by Saturday evening, while the roads would remain closed to Murree till Sunday at 9 PM.

“We have also decided to ban tourists who are planning to visit Murree. This is not the time to come to Murree,” the minister was quoted as saying by the Geo News.

The Punjab government has declared Murree as a calamity-hit area after heavy snowfall wreaked havoc in the city. Taking notice of the chaos and emergency situation, Punjab Chief Minister Usman Buzdar has directed to open the government’s offices and rest houses for the stranded tourists.

The Pakistan Meteorological Department had predicted heavy snowfall in Murree and Galiyat from January 6 to 9.

Thousands of tourists, including women and children, have been trapped on the roads in the area since last night. Officials of the traffic police, however, were making their efforts to restore the flow of traffic on the roads.

Taking to Twitter, Rawalpindi deputy commissioner said, around 23,000 vehicles have been evacuated safely from Murree. Around 1,000 are still stranded.”

Opposition political leaders criticised the government for its handling of the influx of tourists and inadequate preparation.

Leader of the Opposition in the National Assembly and PML-N President Shehbaz Sharif said he was heartbroken over the tragedy in Murree and questioned who was responsible for the deaths.

“Where was the government all the while? What arrangements did it make to deal with such an influx? Incompetence is fast turning into criminality. Prior arrangements & round-the-clock supervision were the normal SOPs in the past,” he tweeted.

Terming the deaths heartbreaking, PPP Vice President Sherry Rehman said governments “needed to be more vigilant about the flood of tourists on the Galiyat routes”.

“Instead of seeking more tourists, the government should have given a warning for jammed roads. These were tragic & avoidable losses that no one intended, but no one acted in time either. Lessons need to be learnt,” she added.

“The job of governments is not only to count tourists but also to make advance arrangements and security measures for them […] These deaths are not due to snowfall but due to government negligence,” tweeted PML-N Vice President Maryam Nawaz.

A large number of people were stranded and flights faced delays as the rain continued to lash the federal capital and Rawalpindi for the fourth consecutive day on Friday.

Due to continuous snowfall and traffic congestion in Murree, the district administration imposed a ban on the entry of more vehicles.

Snowfall, which began on Tuesday night, continued with regular intervals, attracting thousands of tourists. However, due to the rush of visitors, many families ended up getting stranded on roads. It has been reported that over 100,000 vehicles entered the hill station.

In a statement, Chief Traffic Officer Taimoor Khan said the entry of vehicles into Murree had been banned from Friday night onwards and cars were being diverted from toll plazas and other entrances, the Dawn reported.

He said since snowfall started on Monday morning, more than 155,000 vehicles had entered Murree and 135,000 had so far left.

Photograph: Courtesy @KazmiWajahat/Twitter

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Cold kills 21 stuck in cars in Pakistan

Cold kills 21 stuck in cars in Pakistan

At least 21 people have been killed near a Pakistani hill station after heavy snowfall left thousands stranded on blocked roads.

“At least 21 people including women and children have died,” the rescue office from the Murree hill station said on Saturday as temperatures fell to minus 8C.

A police officer from the capital Islamabad was among the victims.

He was found dead in his car along with his wife and six children.

Prime Minister Imran Khan ordered an inquiry and was “putting in place strong regulation to ensure prevention of such tragedies,” he said on Twitter.

Tens of thousands of tourists rushed to Murree, one of the most popular hill stations north of the capital, to enjoy the views and the snowfall that started late on Tuesday.

According to a government estimate, more than 100,000 vehicles were spotted in the area, where hotels were packed to capacity.

Visitors without a place to stay were left with no option than sleeping in their cars.

Social media was flooded with videos showing vehicles trapped in snowdrifts.

“Our teams are still trying to reach the trapped due to blocked roads. It is feared that the number of dead may increase,” Rafaqat Zaman, a spokesperson for the district rescue office told DPA.

He said the snowstorm was “unusual” and roadblocks made it impossible for people to leave.

Interior Minister Sheikh Rashid Ahmed said that thousands of vehicles were still stuck on the roads and authorities had called in the armed forces to help with a rescue operation.

The authorities have declared a state of emergency in Murree and banned any more vehicles or tourists from entering the region.

Information Minister Fawad Chaudhry appealed to people not to visit the hill station for a few days saying it had become “impossible” for the administration to facilitate such large numbers of people.

Locals have been volunteering and providing food and blankets to the people who are trapped.

The Pakistan meteorological department predicts that the heavy snowfall in Murree will last until Sunday evening.

with AP

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EC announces poll schedule: 2-phase in Manipur, 7-phase in UP, counting on March 10

EC announces poll schedule: 2-phase in Manipur, 7-phase in UP, counting on March 10

Assembly elections in Uttar Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Punjab, Manipur and Goa will be held between February 10 and March 7 in seven phases with counting of votes on March 10, the Election Commission announced on Saturday, and banned physical rallies and roadshows till January 15 due to Covid concerns.

IMAGE: Chief Election Commissioner Sushil Chandra flanked by Election Commissioners Rajeev Kumar (left) and Anoop Chandra Pandey (right) at Vigyan Bhawan, in New Delhi, January 8, 2022. Photograph: Kamal Kishore/PTI Photo.

The elections have huge political significance with BJP ruling four of these five states, while it is making a big push to capture Congress-ruled Punjab, where the Aam Aadmi Party is also emerging as an important player.


Announcing the election schedule with a strong focus on digital and virtual modes of campaigning, Chief Election Commissioner Sushil Chandra said the ban on rallies, roadshows, nukkad sabhas, padayatras and vehicle rallies will be reviewed on January 15.

Asked about experts predicting the third wave of the Covid pandemic to peak in February, when voting for five of the seven phases of the polls will take place, he said the situation is very dynamic and nobody can predict Covid numbers of future date.

He also assured voters that all necessary steps are being taken to ensure “Covid safe” elections and said they should come out in large numbers to exercise their franchise as polling booths will be sanitised and polling officers vaccinated.

In all, elections will be held for 690 assembly seats, and 18.3 crore people, including 8.5 crore women, will be eligible to cast their votes in the five states.

In the politically important Uttar Pradesh, voting will start from the western region and move towards the east over seven phases.

Elections will be held in 403 assembly seats in the state in the seven phases from February 10 to March 7.

For Manipur’s 60 assembly constituencies, elections will held in two phases on February 27 and March 3, while polling in Goa (40 seats), Punjab (117 seats) and Uttarakhand (70 seats) will be held on February 14.

The Model Code of Conduct has come into effect in the five states with the announcement of the elections.

“The commission will not hesitate to bar parties from further rallies if Covid protocol is not followed,” Chandra said.

The Election Commission has also set stringent Covid guidelines for the polls.

It has restricted the number of people for door-to-door campaigns to five and has asked political parties to provide masks, hand sanitisers to people attending rallies, if they are allowed, Chandra said.

The poll panel has also banned victory celebrations and only two persons will be allowed to accompany a candidate to collect the winning certificate.

The EC said that it has asked chief secretaries of the poll-bound states to expedite the vaccination drive.

“More than 15 crore have got first dose, more than nine crore have got both doses in the five states,” Chandra said.

The EC has also doubled the air time on Doordarshan for political parties, he said.

Chandra, who was flanked by election commissioners Rajiv Kumar and Anup Chandra Pandey, said parties and candidates have been advised to conduct their campaigns on virtual and digital modes as much as possible.

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