The surprising spread of the Covid-19 pandemic all over the world has disrupted every aspect of public life. More importantly, the threat of the virus is unlikely to end any soon, as the surge of fresh cases keeps in many parts of the world and the confirmed news of a reliable vaccine is yet to come by. Under such circumstances, with the resumption of economic and other essential services, public life is slowly moving in the direction of the “new normal” in which routine activities in life are again being undertaken. However, the process of restoring “normalcy” is being done in large part by following precautionary measures as the threat of the virus looms large. One such routine activity is the conduct of elections in democracies across the world. Democratic elections, through the very nature of it, are extremely challenging to be held amidst the spread of an infectious disease like Covid-19. As elections require intense public interaction and mass communication, the apprehension is that the precautionary norms like social distancing and avoidance of crowded gatherings will essentially impede the hassle-free conduct of elections.

The challenges of conducting elections in a democracy like India, which has the largest number of electorates in the world, are manifold. As the pandemic continues to persist, putting elections in which the most perceptible hallmark of a vibrant working democracy, at abeyance is detrimental for accountable governance that democracy seeks to establish.


So, after few months of retaining some Rajya Sabha and Legislative Council elections on temporary hold, India performed those elections in many states. However, those elections involved limited participants and so turned into simpler to conduct for the duration of the ensuing health crisis. But, India’s first major large-scale direct election is set to be held in the state of Bihar soon amidst the pandemic. The Election Commission has scheduled the Vidhan Sabha elections in Bihar through the end of October. The elections might be held in 3 phases and the results will be declared by 10 November. Taking a cue from the successful model of conducting elections during the pandemic in countries like South Korea, Singapore and others, the Election Commission in India has brought out strict precautionary guidelines in order to reduce the spread of the infection during the election.

Strict guidelines have been issued that need to be considered both during the election campaign and during the voting process. Through the campaign, visible rallies and online political communication between leaders and voters through increased use of communication is encouraged. Even at large gatherings and road meetings, limited public participation and reduced number of vehicles with appropriate public distances and intervals are regulated by the Electoral Commission. Conducting door-to-door campaigns with limited political structures and a limited nomination process is also mandated. Even in the voting process, some special measures will be taken. The number of people's voting booths and voting booths has been expanded. The limit on the maximum number of voters in each polling station has been reduced to avoid overcrowding. Provisions for hot photography for all voters and access to gloves for nominees prior to obtaining Electronic Voting Machines (EVMs) for voting have been confirmed.

Adequate provision of sanitisers for hand, soap, water and other necessary means to ensure the health and safety of voting workers and voters will also be available as guidelines. Even special offers for private voting in the last hour of the day for isolated patients and Covid-19 are arranged with due diligence. Provision of postal voting will also be made available to vulnerable voters such as the elderly and people with disabilities.


However, the huge electoral exercise in Bihar includes more than 9 crore voters. So, with the above mentioned precautions, it will continuously posit a few challenges for the prerequisites of transparent and fair methods of democracy that elections are mandated to observe. For instance, Bihar is a kingdom with 37 percent of people having access to the internet and 27 percent having access to smart phones. So as pointed out by the former Election Commissioner of India, S.Y. Quraishi, the extent of the reach of virtual campaigning and political communication of social media is probably limited in nature.

This will require alternative alternatives to technology such as the use of hologram. Such sophisticated electoral campaigns may require the use of high-quality and well-qualified technologies that will put the country's parties in greater wealth and reach a more profitable position than regional and minority groups with fewer resources.


Moreover, such excessive use of social media and other virtual means of communication of the political campaign may not occur naturally due to the ongoing digital diversity in India. Due to the ever-increasing diversity of resources and access to different parties during the epidemic, a large proportion of voters may ignore the promises and promises made by certain political parties.
This can create a disproportionate dissemination of information to the voters and they might be unevenly prompted through the constant political communication of the parties which could be capable of virtually attain them more than other parties who are incapable of doing so. The voters are expected to make informed choices based on their knowledge regarding the electoral promises made by all of the major parties in the electoral fray. But, such asymmetrical nature of political messaging may detrimentally affect the extent playing ground that fair elections are expected to offer.

In addition, it will no doubt be a major challenge for the Electoral Commission to monitor all political communications and the election campaign in a space where multiple activities can take place simultaneously on multiple platforms. Therefore, the chances of breaking the Model Code of Conduct during the election campaign through visible co-operation will be easier for political parties in such situations.

Former Chief Electoral Officer Quraishi also pointed out that the threat of false news and hateful propaganda, which already divides the social media platform, could only get worse during a visible political campaign. Restricting and controlling the content of media outlets that are not in line with the principles of free, fair and peaceful elections will be a major challenge for the Electoral Commission in the forthcoming elections.


It is undeniably true that the uninterrupted conduct of elections, even in the wake of the pandemic, is critical for democracies to sustain and thrive. As suspension of elections citing health emergency can pave the possibility of authoritarian tendencies and unaccountable governance, democratic elections is of paramount importance especially in times of such unprecedented life and livelihood crisis.

But, as elections in a demographically large democracy like India needs vibrant, at instances chaotic, political interplay and mass mobilisation on a huge scale, the pandemic situation makes it immensely challenging. However, convincing the electorates to take part in the elections enthusiastically, no matter the Covid-19 threat, will rely on the confidence-building measures to be taken by the election conducting body, the Election Commission of India. However, as extraordinary times demand extraordinary measures, accomplishing free, fair and also safe elections under the present Indian situations will absolutely once again corroborate the resilient spirit of democracy in India.


Damini Nagar
B.A LLB from Indore institution of Law

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