With elections underway in West Bengal, the eastern state has become a hotbed of political events in recent days, COVID-19 pandemic notwithstanding. Over the last week, several political leaders had urged the election Commission to combine the remaining phases of the polls, even as others insisted that public events and rallies should be halted.
But even as the BJP forges ahead with its poll campaign, the TMC and the Congress appear to be taking a step back. A day after Congress MP Rahul Gandhi announced that he would be suspending all his public rallies in the state, West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee is taking similar measures.
In a Twitter update, party spokesperson and TMC MP Derek O'Brien revealed that Banerjee would not be campaigning in Kolkata any longer, and was slashing the duration of her rallies in other districts.
"Mamata Banerjee will NOT campaign in Kolkata anymore. Only one ‘symbolic’ meeting on the last day of campaigning in the city on April 26. Slashes time for all her election rallies in all districts. Restricted to just 30 minutes," he tweeted, adding COVID-19 as a hashtag.
While the Left parties have shied away from calling for a single phased end to the polls, they have announced their intention to not hold big rallies. Rather, the parties will be taking the digital route to reach out to voters. In the meantime, the Election Commission has halted campaigning between 7 pm and 10 am on campaign day and extended the silence period to 72 hours.
But the BJP is not convinced. Even as these announcements came in, Home Minister Amit Shah held public meetings and a massive road show in the state. According to reports, thousands of BJP supporters participated in the Nakashipara roadshow. And even as Banerjee blamed 'bohiragoto' (outsiders) goons for spreading COVID-19 in the state, Shah insisted that it was "not right" to link the polls to India's rising COVID-19 case load.
West Bengal incidentally recorded over 8,400 cases in the last 24 hours.