Congress leader Rahul Gandhi on Sunday cancelled all his election rallies in West Bengal in view of the massive increase in coronavirus cases.
“I would advise all political leaders to think deeply about the consequences of holding large public rallies under the current circumstances,” the Congress leader said in a tweet.
Gandhi also criticised Prime Minister Narendra Modi for praising the record turnout at his rally in West Bengal on Saturday. “This is also the first time when such huge crowds of sick people and a record number of deaths have been seen,” he said in another tweet.
Modi had said in Asansol district on Saturday that he had never seen such a large number of people at a rally, NDTV reported.
“I have come here twice during Lok Sabha elections,” he was quoted as saying by the news channel. “Last time I came to seek votes for Babulji [Babul Supriyo]. The first time I came for myself. But the crowd was only a quarter of this size. but today, in all directions I see huge crowds of people...have witnessed such a rally for the first time.”
The prime minister’s comments came as India is struggling to contain the second wave of the coronavirus pandemic. On Sunday, the country reported 2,61,500 new coronavirus cases, an unprecedented figure since the pandemic broke out in January 2020, to take its tally to 1,47,88,109. With 1,501 deaths, the toll rose to 1,77,150. The country has recorded over 2 lakh infections for the fourth consecutive day.
On Saturday, Union Home Minister Amit Shah denied a link between elections and the surge in cases.
In an interview to The Indian Express, the Bharatiya Janata Party leader said that the coronavirus cases were rising even in states where elections were not taking place. “Are elections taking place in Maharashtra?” he asked. “As many as 60,000 cases are there, while there are 4,000 here [in West Bengal]. I care about both the states. Cases surged in states where there were no elections. What will you say now?”
Assembly elections have concluded for Assam, Kerala, Tamil Nadu and Puducherry. In the eight-phase West Bengal elections, the last three rounds are still pending.
On Friday, the Election Commission had banned political rallies and public meetings in West Bengal between 7 pm and 10 am. It also increased the silence period for campaigning for the last three phases of voting from 48 hours to 72 hours.