As many as 75 counting centres across the length and breadth of the State, resembled scenes from a carnival as counting officials and booth agents were swarmed by party workers while social distancing and basic hygiene protocols went for a toss.
The numbers about this extraordinary exercise offers an inkling of the risk factors for all those involved. There are as many as 16,387 staffers who had been assigned counting duty on Sunday. To top it off, there were 25,059 police personnel assigned to ensure security, apart from 5,622 CRPF personnel as well as 5,154 personnel from the Tamil Nadu Special Police Force, aiding in this exercise. On the plus side, strict protocols had been put in place to ensure that election observers and candidates entering the counting centres do so only after they produce a COVID-19 negative certificate or proof of having taken two doses of the COVID vaccination.
But at a juncture where Tamil Nadu is recording over 17,000 fresh cases a day, every act of non-compliance to COVID norms has far-reaching consequences. In fact, it may be recalled that this week, five officials on poll duty had tested positive while undergoing swab tests in Tiruchy, and they had been replaced by the district administration. But the polling centres per se could be considered controlled environments as compared to the headquarters of a few parties in the State which erupted in fanfare since the beginning of the counting process on the weekend.
The celebrations went on to draw the ire of senior DMK leader RS Bharathi who went on to berate the cadre for holding celebrations in the public and instructed party workers to vacate the headquarters and observe their celebrations in the privacy of their homes. The Election Commission which took cognisance of these violations had, in turn, directed the Chief Secretaries in all five states to file an FIR in each case, while suspending the SHO of the police station under whose jurisdiction the violation took place, a casualty of which happened to be the Teynampet police inspector.
Outside Tamil Nadu, the situation was no different, as West Bengal too had a tough time reigning in the revelries, despite the strict instructions from both party high commands, as well as the Election Commission. On the back of official trends that have predicted a victory for Mamata Banerjee, workers from the Trinamool Congress were seen gathering en-masse to participate in victory rallies, that was explicitly banned by the EC given the rise in COVID cases pan India.
The developments on Sunday are but a minor indicator of where the priorities of India’s political bigwigs lie, never mind that we might be struggling with one of the biggest human catastrophes since the post-Independence era. Amidst all the fanfare about the arrival of new kingmakers and the retention of the old guard in some states, the mind-numbing statistic of breaching the mark of 2 crore COVID cases may be the biggest upset of the day.