West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee on Thursday urged the Election Commission to club the four remaining phases of the Assembly elections into one amid the surge in coronavirus cases in the country.

Banerjee said in a tweet that wrapping up voting in one day would protect voters from further exposure to the coronavirus. “Amid an ongoing pandemic, we firmly opposed the Election Commission’s decision to conduct WB polls in 8 phases,” she added.

Trinamool Congress leader Mahua Moita also criticised the Election Commission for stretching the elections in the middle of the second wave of the pandemic. “It is certainly criminal negligence bordering on manslaughter on part of Election Commission to mandate 8 phase election in WB in middle of worst pandemic,” she tweeted. “Unbelievable that we are being put through this. Infections, deaths rising everyday.”

However, earlier on Thursday, the Election Commission had dismissed speculation that the four rounds would be combined, ANI reported.

Four phases of the West Bengal Assembly elections have already taken place. The remaining rounds are scheduled to take place on April 17, 22, 26 and 29. Results will be declared on May 2.

Banerjee had on Wednesday accused the Bharatiya Janata Party of spreading the coronavirus in the state, NDTV reported. “In the name of election campaign, they [the BJP] have got so many outsiders and they have spread the disease here and run away and now they say ‘give us the vote’, she had said at an election rally.

Meanwhile, West Bengal Chief Electoral Officer Aariz Aftab will hold an all-party meeting on Friday to discuss the implementation of safety protocols during campaigning for the four pending phases of Assembly polls.

West Bengal had on Wednesday recorded 5,892 new coronavirus cases, taking the total number of infections since the beginning of the pandemic in January last year to 6,30,116. The state’s toll rose to 10,458 as 24 more deaths were recorded on the last day.

Coronavirus cases are surging across India. The country recorded over 2 lakh new coronavirus cases on Thursday – a record high since the pandemic broke out in January 2020. India’s overall count of cases since the outbreak rose to 1,40,74,564. The toll rose to 1,73,123 as 1,038 deaths were recorded in the last day.