Elections for the five Assembly states of Uttar Pradesh, Punjab, Uttarakhand, Goa and Manipur will be held from February 10 to March 7, with the counting set to be held on March 10, the Election Commission of India (ECI) confirmed on Saturday. The model code of conduct comes into immediate effect with the announcement of the schedule. 

Also read: Uttarakhand Assembly election 2022: Polling on February 14 in single phase

The elections will be conducted in a total of seven phases. The Yogi Adityanath-ruled Uttar Pradesh has the maximum number of phases, seven, from February 10 to March 7. Manipur will vote in two phases – on February 27 and March 3 – while Punjab, Uttarakhand and Goa will vote in a single phase on February 14. 

Also read: Exclusive polling stations, more voters: Women-centric measures in 2022 polls

Expressing confidence in his party’s ability to retain its states and challenge the Congress in Punjab, BJP national president JP Nadda said his party will “once again get the blessing of the people”. 

“In the upcoming assembly elections, the Bharatiya Janata Party will again get the blessings of the people. BJP will return to power with a thumping majority and will take the work of service and development to new heights,” Nadda said in a tweet in Hindi. 

He also urged all party workers to follow the COVID-related and other guidelines announced by the ECI. 

Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath said that the “BJP will be successful in forming in the government again with overwhelming majority,” adding “there should be no doubt about it.”

Meanwhile, the Congress expressed displeasure at the the announcement that there will be only virtual rallies in these elections.  

Speaking to ANI, Congress leader Mallikarjun Kharge said, “PM Modi already held various political rallies. He’s been touring for the past month and has visited UP CM Yogi Adityanath more than 10-15 times. There’s nothing for the ruling party. Only the financially weaker parties will face problems.”

Also read: Uttar Pradesh Assembly election 2022: Polling to be held from February 10 in 7 phases, results on 10 March

Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) leader and Delhi Deputy Chief Minister Manish Sisodia said that February 14, the day when Goa, Punjab and Uttarakhand – the three states where the party will be looking to make major inroads – will vote in a single phase, has historically been a lucky day for the party. 

“Not only AAP, but the voters of poll-bound states were waiting for a long time to give a chance to Kejriwal’s governance and remove the existing betraying govternments. February 14 has historically been lucky for AAP anyway,” Sisodia said.

Samajwadi Party (SP) supremo Akhilesh Yadav, whose party is the primary challenger to the BJP in the crucial state of UP, said the dates “will mark a huge change in the state”. 

“People in Uttar Pradesh are set to bid farewell to the BJP government. These dates will mark a huge change in the state. Rules will be followed by Samajwadi Party, but the Election Commission should make sure the ruling party follows these guidelines,” he told ANI. 

Also Read | E-nomination, publicity of criminal records: ECI guidelines for 2022 polls

The Election Commission’s announcement comes a day after the ECI was briefed by the government on the COVID situation, with the country experiencing a rapid surge in cases driven by the more transmissible omicron variant of the coronavirus.

The ECI has announced several protocols for the upcoming polls. This would include the sanitisation of all polling stations, an increase in the number of booths to avoid overcrowding, extension in the polling times, and postal ballots for vulnerable people. 

Also read: COVID protocols for Assembly elections 2022: Only virtual rallies allowed, no victory procession

The commission has said that no roadshows, marches, cycle or bike rallies will be allowed in the poll-bound states till January 15 to prevent the spread of the coronavirus, but the situation will be constantly monitored and fresh instructions may be issued later.