Even as coronavirus cases have been rising across the country in the last few weeks, political leaders from various parties held large public meetings in Uttar Pradesh and attended events without wearing masks over the weekend.
The visits come at a time when they have been urging citizens to follow Covid-appropriate behaviour and wear masks to prevent the spread of the virus.
Uttar Pradesh Assembly election are slated to be held this year.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi has been campaigning across the state since December.
On Sunday, Modi was once again in Uttar Pradesh – this time in Meerut for the inauguration of Major Dhyan Chand Sports University. He did not have a mask on for the majority of the time.
Modi, on December 25 while launching coronavirus vaccines for children, had appealed to the public to remain alert as the country has been seeing a surge in Covid-19 cases owing to the Omicron variant. He advised citizens to ensure that coronavirus protocols are followed with sustained use of masks and regular washing of hands.
During his monthly radio address on December 26, the prime minister had called for self-discipline and self-awareness to fight the Omicron variant of coronavirus.
Last year, Modi was sharply criticised by the international media for holding religious events and addressing massive election rallies, particularly in West Bengal, when the country was reeling under the second wave of coronavirus pandemic.
In April 2021, as thousands of Hindu devotees flocked to participate in the Kumbh Mela in Uttarakhand’s Haridwar city, international media had reported that the gathering was allowed to take place despite the massive surge in coronavirus cases in India. The mela took place on a day when India recorded more than 2 lakh new cases – a global record since the pandemic broke out in December 2019.
Criticism about the government’s handling of the pandemic flooded Twitter subsequently. The Centre had asked the social media platform to take down 52 tweets about the matter. Medical journal The Lancet had said that Modi’s attempts to curb criticism and open discussion during the coronavirus pandemic were “inexcusable”.
However, it was not just Modi who was seen without a mask at events in Uttar Pradesh over the weekend.
Samajwadi Party chief Akhilesh Yadav addressed two public gatherings in Lucknow as a part of his Vijay Rath Yatra. Majority of the people, who attended the crowded rally, including Yadav, were not wearing a mask.
On December 23, Yadav’s family members had tested positive for coronavirus, following which he did not take part in rallies for three days.
Aam Aadmi Party chief Arvind Kejriwal was also in Lucknow to address an election rally on Sunday. Kejriwal and most of the people at the event were not wearing a mask.
Kejriwal has been advocating Covid-appropriate behaviour in all his press briefings. In most of his recent media addresses in Delhi – where cases of the Omicron variant are rising – he has urged people to wear masks and follow physical distancing.