West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee will not campaign in Kolkata anymore, tweeted Trinamool Congress leader Derek O’Brien on Sunday. The decision came amid a surge in coronavirus cases in the state.
“Only one ‘symbolic’ meeting on the last day of campaigning in the city on April 26,” O’Brien said, adding that Banerjee has cut down timings of her election rallies in other districts to 30 minutes.
On Sunday, West Bengal recorded 8,419 new coronavirus cases, its highest-ever single-day rise in infections, reported PTI. With this, the infection tally climbed to 6,59,927 since the pandemic first broke out in January 2020. The toll climbed by 82 to 10,568. Kolkata is the worst-affected district in the state, reporting the highest number of cases at 2,917 on Sunday.
Elections are underway in the state amid the surge in Covid cases. While polling for five phases has been held, three more remain. Despite the situation, political leaders including Prime Minister Narendra Modi have held rallies, without adhering to coronavirus-related protocols.
However, recently various political parties decided to cancel their rallies. The Communist Party of India (Marxist) on April 14 said it will not hold any more big election rallies for the remaining phases. Congress leader Rahul Gandhi also cancelled all his rallies in the state.
The Bharatiya Janata Party, however, is yet to take any such measure. On April 17, Union Home Minister Amit Shah had said that it was “not right” to link the surge in coronavirus cases in India to elections. Just a day later, NITI Aayog member VK Paul pointed out that standard operating procedures, or SOPs, related to the coronavirus pandemic should have been followed “to the letter and spirit” in the Kumbh Mela and rallies in states which went to polls over the last few weeks.
The Election Commission also made attempts to control the rise in coronavirus cases. On April 16, the poll panel 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.
A day ago, Banerjee had urged the Election Commission to club the four remaining phases of the Assembly elections. The fifth phase of the polls took place on April 17. The remaining rounds are scheduled to take place on April 22, 26 and 29. Results will be declared on May 2.