A massive panchayat voting exercise in Uttar Pradesh, with four sections that saw at least 9 crore voters stand in front of 2 lakh dockets held by civil servants and about 12 lakh security personnel, coincided with a sharp increase in Covid-19 cases in the state.
According to official data, between January 30, 2020 and April 4, 2021 – for a period of 15 months – UP recorded a total of 6.3 lakh Covid-91 cases. In the 30 days starting April 4, more than 8 new lakh cases take the UP case to 14lakh. This period was marked by a rural vote.
With the completion of the nomination papers in the first round of elections on April 2 and 3, local leaders of all parties attacked the campaign. The appearance of the large gatherings and processions began to fill in. They came from all corners as the constituencies went to polling the stations. Thousands of people, working in the remotest cities including Delhi and Mumbai, have returned home to vote.
Voting in the UP took place on April 15, April 19, April 26 and April 29. And the counting of votes, which again became a major task, began on May 2 and continued for another three days.
Among the teachers’ unions have released a list of more than 700 teachers who allegedly died as a result of Covid they received while doing voting work. The Allahabad High Court then issued a notice to the electoral commission seeking an explanation. Dozens of candidates, some of whom have won, also died after the infection.
Preparations for the election began in March. One of the major political parties organized ‘officials’ (rallies) in 50,000 state districts to reach voters at the booth level.
The other teams were in the background as they also came out on top. Faced with widespread criticism of the planned polls in the wake of the epidemic, Prime Minister Yogi Adityanath said they were carried out on the orders of the Allahabad Supreme Court. Critics, however, argued that the government could have gone to the Supreme Court for settlement, but that did not happen.
In Agra, the number of Covid-19 cases increased fivefold after the election. According to Department of Health records, 1,612 cases of Covid-19 cases were reported in the region between April 1 and 15. After the panchayat election, it rose to 8,119 cases. Only 6 patients with Covid-19 died between April 1 and 15. The number has risen to 81 between April 16 and 30.
In general, too, there was an eight-fold increase during this period. After the election, there was a major outbreak as more than 750 cases were reported each day.
Between April 16 and 30, more than 12,500 cases were reported from Bareilly. Bareilly regional superintendent Dr Ranjan Gautam told, “The number of Covid-19 cases has risen sharply since the election.”