Political parties in poll-bound West Bengal on Friday assured their full cooperation to the Election Commission of India in adhering to Covid-19 protocols, reported ANI. The poll panel had called an all-party meeting in Kolkata after the Calcutta High Court sought its response on the actions and steps taken on Covid-19 safety protocols during the poll campaign.
“We have advised the Election Commission to balance the need for a robust democratic culture with safety norms,” said Bharatiya Janata Party leader Swapan Dasgupta. “It is up to the EC to tell us what exactly political parties must do. We’ve assured them that we’ll adhere to protocols.”
Trinamool Congress MP Derek O’Brien reiterated Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee’s demand of wrapping up the remaining phases of poll into one. “TMC’s position is clear, we want remaining elections to be held in one phase,” O’Brien told reporters. “I request BJP to make their position clear. Do they agree with us that politics is a second priority, first is handling the Covid-19 pandemic?”
TMC Secretary General Partha Chatterjee also sought clubbing of the remaining rounds of voting. “We have told the commission that in order to give the people proper healthcare facilities amid Covid situation, the last three phases may be clubbed into one, while ensuring that the democratic rights of the people are upheld,” he told reporters after the meeting.
On Thursday, Banerjee had said 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 West Bengal polls in eight phases,” she had tweeted.
However, earlier on Thursday, the Election Commission had dismissed speculation that the four phases of voting would be combined.
Meanwhile, the Communist Party of India (Marxist) on Wednesday said it will not organise big election rallies for the remaining phases of polls in West Bengal. “We had seen the high turnouts in our meetings in all the phases of polling so far,” senior party leader Md Salim said. “With the sharp rise in Covid-19, we have decided not to hold any big rally to prevent any contamination. We will undertake door-to-door and small group meetings with all Covid-19 measures in place.”
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.
On Thursday, West Bengal recorded more than 6,700 new coronavirus cases. Coronavirus cases are surging across India. The country recorded over 2 lakh new coronavirus cases on Thursday and Friday – a record high since the pandemic broke out in January 2020. India’s toll rose to 1,74,308 with 1,185 deaths, the highest since September 19.
Despite this, political leaders, including Prime Minister Narendra Modi, have been addressing massive rallies and roadshows without masks. Experts have also warned that religious gatherings and the farmers’ protest will be super-spreaders of the coronavirus.