The Shiv Sena on Saturday claimed that the coronavirus situation in the county would not have been grim if the Supreme Court or high courts had taken timely cognisance of the election rallies in West Bengal and the Kumbh Mela in Haridwar.
“It is good that the court has stepped in,” the Sena said in an editorial in its mouthpiece Saamana. “However, had there been a timely intervention about election rallies and road shows of the prime minister, home minister and other leaders in West Bengal and the religious congregation in Haridwar, people wouldn’t have been left to die in agony.”
The Bharatiya Janata Party-led Centre had faced criticism for holding massive rallies in poll-bound West Bengal and allowing the Kumbh Mela to go on amid the second wave of the coronavirus infection that has badly affected the country.
The Shiv Sena said that courts “wake up” to take action only at their convenience. “Coronavirus is a national calamity and the top court has now sought information from the Centre about how it will handle the calamity,” the editorial said.
In its editorial, the Sena said that the Centre should introspect about the coronavirus situation in the country rather than blaming the states for it. “The country’s health system created a false illusion of defeating the crisis of Covid-19,” it said. “But what did the Centre do to make the health infrastructure self-reliant when it had knowledge that there would be a second wave and that it would be devastating? Had the Centre focused on tackling the second Covid-19 wave instead of the Assembly polls in West Bengal, Tamil Nadu, Kerala, Assam and Puducherry, the situation would not have deteriorated.”
Citing the death of 25 Covid patients in a hospital in Delhi due to oxygen shortage, the Shiv Sena said: “This is the situation in the national capital. Who is responsible for this situation if not the central government?” It pointed out that British daily The Guardian had described the situation as “India’s descent to Covid hell”.
The party also alleged that the actual numbers of the toll in Gujarat and Uttar Pradesh, both ruled by the BJP, were being suppressed. “Corpses were kept hidden in the morgue,” it said. “Yet community pyre was burnt in the crematoriums.”
“Modi and his colleagues wanted to turn India into a heaven,” the editorial added. “Today, we see only crematoriums and burial grounds. There are mass funeral pyres and hospitals themselves are on fire along with the patients. Is this a hell?”
India on Sunday reported a record-breaking 3,49,691 new coronavirus cases in a day, taking the total number of infections to 1,69,60,172 since the pandemic broke out in January 2020. This is the highest ever single-day rise in cases reported by any country so far, and the fourth consecutive day when the country has set such a grim global record.
Kumbh Mela and election rallies
The violation of Covid-19 protocols at Kumbh Mela had attracted attention from across the world. However, state authorities, including Chief Minister Tirath Singh Rawat, tried to downplay the risks. On April 17, Prime Minister Narendra Modi had said that the celebration should be held as a “symbolic event” due to the coronavirus situation.
In West Bengal, BJP leaders, including Modi and Union Home Minister Amit Shah, had continued to hold rallies despite criticism from various political parties.
The Communist Party of India (Marxist) on April 14 had said it will not hold any more big election rallies for the remaining three phases. Congress leader Rahul Gandhi had also cancelled all his rallies in the state.
West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee curtailed her election schedule on April 18 and cancelled all her pre-scheduled public meetings in view of the coronavirus situation.
Later on April 19, the BJP announced that it will only hold small public meetings with not more than 500 people. On Thursday, the prime minister announced he has cancelled his rallies scheduled for Friday and would chair meetings on the coronavirus situation instead. This came hours before the Election Commission banned all roadshows, cycle or bike rallies for the seventh and eighth phases of the Assembly elections.