Bhopal: Despite recording 158 active COVID-19 cases by the end of May in Gwalior-Chambal region of Madhya Pradesh, the state government kept the region out of the ‘red zone’ and allowed social, political rallies and gathering in the region ahead of the crucial bypolls.
On the other hand, three districts in the Nimar region, Khandwa, Burhanpur, and Dhar, with 133 active COVID-19 cases by the end of May fell under the red zone, while Chambal remained in the ‘green zone’.
Last week, Gwalior, Bhind, and Morena reported 459 cases of the infection, seeing the highest jump in the state, next to Indore.
Morena—where bypolls for five seats are due and political campaigns have been carried out—have reported 276 new cases between June 25 and till July 1. Gwalior and Bhind, where by-polls for four seats [two from each district] are due, have reported 94 and 89 cases respectively.
A curfew has been imposed in Morena for the next five days and CM Shivraj Singh Chouhan has asked the officials, during a review meeting on June 30, to keep a close eye on Gwalior and Bhind as well and take punitive actions to control the situation.
The Covid-19 data were taken from MP Health Dept July 1 daily bulletin.
It is worth mentioning that the region encompasses 16 seats of the total 24 seats that are going to the polls before September 2020. According to the sources, the Election Commission of India is likely to announce the date of polling by mid-July after analysing the COVID-19 situation in the State.
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On May 29, NewsClick had reported how the bypoll districts had been kept out of the red zone despite a high number of COVID-19 cases and how politicians carried out rallies and meetings there.
For the last two months, the Gwalior-Chambal region has become the new home of the ruling party leaders. Union Minister Narendra Singh Tomar, who is also the Member of Parliament from Morena, held numerous meetings with the party workers to reportedly deal with an internal feud that followed 22 rebel Congress MLAs’ switch to the Saffron party.
Madhya Pradesh Congress spokesperson, Ajay Yadav, has alleged that the entire Chambal-Gwalior belt had been an orange zone, but the government “intentionally scrapped the ‘orange zone’ category and declared all these districts green”, despite the high number of COVID-19 cases.
“This has been done to allow BJP leaders and their followers to campaign without any hindrance in the region,” he said.
Home Minister Narottam Mishra with party workers.
Similarly, state Home Minister Narottam Mishra who is also from the Chambal region (Datia district) made frequent visits to the region with BJP leader Pradyumn Singh Tomar and held several meetings with party workers and launched several schemes in the middle of the pandemic.
Besides, BJP leader and former Rajya Sabha MP Prabhat Jha, State BJP Chief VD Sharma, Minister Tulsi Silawat, and other senior party leaders also visited the bypoll Assembly constituencies.
Soon after, the Congress, too, notwithstanding its earlier objections, launched its political campaign in the region and began meetings with the party workers.
Former Chief Minister Kamal Nath, Digvijay Singh, CM Chouhan, BJP leader Jyotiraditya Scindia are allegedly eager to begin their election campaign in the region as well as in the state. But the increasing number of new cases and pendency of the active cases are restricting their activities.
During a review meeting on June 30, CM Chouhan has issued instructions to the district collectors and officers-in-charge to remain alert and make efforts to control the problem before it spreads further in the Chambal region. He has asked them to ensure the effective implementation of the ‘Kill Corona’ campaign starting from July 1 in the entire state.
Reviewing the situation in Morena district, the CM said that the curfew imposed as a precautionary measure should continue. Officer-in-charge Malay Shrivastava confirmed that the densely populated colonies of Morena would be covered in the Kill Corona campaign, which is a door to door medical check-up drive launched by the state government.
If the cases continue to rise, the Election Commission may not announce the date and postpone the bypolls. Besides, if an election takes place in the middle of a pandemic, it may also hit the voter turnout, thus diminishing the prospects of the parties, said senior journalist Shahroz Afridi.
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