The COVID-19 pandemic has cast a dark shadow on the world, impacting our health, economies, societies, and political processes. 

The Election Commission on Saturday announced the polling dates in GoaPunjabManipurUttarakhand, and Uttar Pradesh. The elections in all five states will be held amid a massive surge in COVID-19 cases across the country.

As India gears up for the upcoming polls, the threat posed by the coronavirus, especially its Omicron variant, cannot be overlooked. Election rallies, especially, are known to lead to massive crowding, often flouting COVID-19 norms.

The ECI also declared in its briefing that no roadshows, marches, cycle or bike rallies will be allowed in the poll-bound states till January 15, but the situation will be constantly monitored and fresh instructions may be issued later.

Political parties, therefore, have had to rethink their approach and make the shift to digital campaigning. 

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1. For instance, Congress will be going live on social media pages, with the party’s Uttar Pradesh campaign in-charge Priyanka Gandhi Vadra speaking about the party’s women-centric ‘ladki hoon lad sakti hoon’ campaign. The party has also decided to suspend election rallies on the ground for a fortnight, making it the first to have taken this call in UP, reported NDTV. This came in the backdrop of a marathon organised by the Congress in Bareilly, which had a huge number of maskless young girls, and could possibly had led to a stampede. 

2. The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) is known for its digital campaigns and social media presence. The party has been seen holding on-ground rallies and campaigns, but a top IT-wing functionary has been cited by reports as saying there will soon be a shift to 3D technology for virtual rallies. There is also a lot of focus on advertisements in print media, carrying party slogans and pictures of PM Narendra Modi and CM Yogi Adityanath. 

3. Sources from the Samajwadi Party have hinted at a social media push, just like its digital activity during the 2017 assembly elections. The party has been publicising links to its WhatsApp groups run by party workers for various constituencies.  

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4. The Bahujan Samaj Party has also been seen beaming live physical rallies by leader Satish Chandra Mishra using Facebook. 

Further, all major political parties would be seen beaming campaign videos on LED screens in all areas, according to reports by NDTV.