Bhopal: Making a mockery of the lockdown and social distancing norms, political parties in Madhya Pradesh are holding rallies and meetings with party workers ahead of by-polls for 24 crucial seats in the state Assembly.
While these political leaders including the Chief Minister, Home Minister, Union Minister, state cabinet ministers as well as veteran Congress leaders are flouting the lockdown norms, the administration has been acting as a mute spectator.
Recently, Congress-deserter Jyotiradiya Scindia, Congress MLA Kunal Choudhary and BJP leader Gopal Bhargava's staff tested positive for COVID-19. However, despite these cases among senior leaders, there has been little effect on the pre-poll campaigns.
CM Chouhan Holding Huge Rallies
CM Shivraj Singh Chouhan got a warm welcome by party leaders and workers on his June 8 visit to Indore, which is one of the worst affected districts with more than 4,200 COVID-19 cases. The following day, he addressed a rally in the Sanwer Assembly seat in support of Minister Tulsi Silawat, who has recently joined the BJP.
On June 15, he addressed a rally in Raisen district, while his rally for the Surkhi Assembly seat was cancelled due to bad weather. Thousands of party workers and voters have been gathering to listen to their Chief Minister in each rally.
On June 13, BJP Minister Govind Singh Rajput, who also switched to the BJP held a rally with party workers in Rahatgarh of Sagar district. In the photos and videos of the event, he can be seen meeting at least hundred party workers defying all the lockdown norms.
Health Minister Narottam Mishra has also been touring the Gwalior-Chambal region, meeting with party workers especially to deal with the party’s internal feud which had erupted after 22 Congress MLAs were inducted into the party. He has never been seen wearing a mask even during official meetings or in public gatherings. Similarly, Union Minister Narendra Singh Tomar, too, met with the party workers in Gwalior-Chambal region.
A former legislator of the BJP from Indore, Sudarshan Gupta, gathered a huge crowd on the pretext of distributing ration on the birthday of Union Minister Narendra Singh Tomar on June 12.
In addition to that, a BJP legislator from Ichhawar, Karan Singh Verma, held a political event on Saturday, June 13. Children and elderly people were present at the function.
Moreover, Inspector General of Sagar division, Anil Sharma, welcomed BJP State Chief VD Sharma on his visit to Sagar district on June 7 along with party workers. In the photos of the event, which went viral after the event, the police officials and personnel can be seen distributing tea among party workers in uniform.
COVID-19 cases continue to rise with each passing day in the state and has already spread across 52 districts. Out of total 10,991 cases till June 15, Indore, Bhopal and Ujjain accounted for 75% of the total cases. In such a scenario, these political rallies and gatherings raise concerns about the state government’s seriousness for containing COVID-19.
As NewsClickhas earlier reported, the state government has already scrapped the ‘Orange zone’ and moved the districts where by-polls are to be held to the Green Zone despite the rising cases.
In the state capital Bhopal too, the number of political events have increased in the past four days. After the press conference of the BJP's state unit president VD Sharma, Congress’ Ajay Singh and former minister Sajjan Singh Verma also talked to journalists.
In addition to that, Congress held a massive gathering at the party office when BJP and BSP leaders joined the party recently. More than 500 BSP workers joined Congress last week at the party office.
Former CM Digvijya Singh, too, was spotted on various places flouting lockdown and social distancing norms.
The BJP is continuously holding meetings in the party office. The central government has banned social gatherings, but as political parties organise such events, the administration cannot take action against them. As a large number of party workers gather at those events along with the politicians, there is danger of the spread of the disease, claimed experts.
“If we ignore the lockdown norms, the people of the state will pay the price,” said state co-convenor of Jan Swasth Abhiyan, Amulya Nidhi. “The Union Minister of Health should intervene and should immediately stop the social or political gathering,” he said.
While a senior journalist Rakesh Dixit said, “The state government has capped numbers for marriage and funerals to avoid large gatherings, but, there are no rules for political gathering. Common people are being booked for venturing out while politicians are going scot free. This is nothing but double standards of the government.”
When contacted, Bhopal collector Tarun Pithode, claimed that everyone has to follow the central government's guidelines and that action will be taken against those who do not follow the guidelines at any event.However, no such action has been taken so far.