The Bharatiya Janata Party on Monday said the party will no longer hold large election rallies in West Bengal, in view of the surge in Covid-19 cases in the country, the Hindustan Times reported. The state Assembly elections are underway amid a sharp rise in Covid-19 infections, with three more phases remaining.

Instead, it has been decided that only small public meetings with not more than 500 people will be politicians, including Prime Minister Narendra Modi and other Union ministers, the party said. All these meetings will be held in open spaces following all Covid-related protocols and guidelines, the BJP added.

The prime minister is scheduled to hold rallies in Murshidabad, south Kolkata, Siuri and Malda on April 23. Modi and his ministers have been campaigning during the eight-phased Assembly elections in the state, where the Bharatiya Janata Party is locked in a tight fight against the ruling Trinamool Congress.

Hundreds of thousands of party’s supporters, most of whom do not wear masks, have been attending these political events, with little regard for physical distancing norms.

On Saturday, Modi had praised the large crowd at his rally in Purba Bardhaman district’s Asansol city, reported NDTV. “, in all directions I see huge crowds of people...have witnessed such a rally for the first time...” the prime minister had said. “Today, you have shown your power. The next step is more important – go and vote and take others also.”

Opposition parties have criticised Modi for campaigning relentlessly amid an unprecedented second wave of the pandemic. Congress leader P Chidambaram on Saturday accused him of ignoring his responsibilities as the prime minister. West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee on Sunday alleged that Modi was directly responsible for the Covid-19 crisis, according to the Hindustan Times.

Meanwhile, various political parties decided to cancel their rallies, in view of the worsening coronavirus situation. On Sunday, Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee said she will not campaign in Kolkata anymore. The Communist Party of India (Marxist) on April 14 said it will not hold any more big election rallies for the remaining three phases. Congress leader Rahul Gandhi also cancelled all his rallies in the state.