Omicron could delay Indian elections

An Indian court asked Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government to suspend political rallies and election campaigns in polling states in light of the increasing number of Omicron cases, a variant of Covid-19.

Allahabad High Court judges in the country’s most populous state, Uttar Pradesh (UP), said Thursday the number of people infected with Omicron is rising and could lead to a third wave of the coronavirus. The elections to the state parliament in UP, home to over 220 million people, are planned for early next year but the final dates will be announced. Local elections are to be held in three other states at the same time.

The UP is an important battleground for Modi and opposition parties because of its size and the performance of its political parties. Political parties, including Modi’s ruling Bharatiya Janata Party, have started holding rallies and meetings at which crowds continued to ignore pandemic protocols. The judges said the elections, which are expected to take place in February next year, would be postponed for a few months if possible.

“The court calls on the honorable Prime Minister, in the face of the situation of this appalling pandemic, to take strong steps to stop rallies and gatherings and to cancel or postpone (the) upcoming elections,” the judges said. “Because only when there is life do we have our world,” they said. India’s overall record of The fast-spreading Omicron variant has reached 358 cases in 17 states, authorities announced on Friday, although no deaths have been reported so far.

Modi spoke to large crowds in a Hindu pilgrimage town in UP Thursday.