The Communist Party of India (Marxist) on Wednesday became the first party to say it will not organise big election rallies for the remaining four phases of polling in West Bengal as coronavirus cases continue to rise across the country.
The CPI(M)’s decision to move away from big rallies to door-to-door campaigns and small meetings amid a high-pitched seven-phase election comes as new coronavirus infections reach record-high levels in the country and states scramble to impose restrictions. The crowds in elections rallies by every party have reportedly flouted social distancing norms in the state.
The PTI quoted CPI-M Politburo member Md Salim as saying, "We had seen the high turnouts in our meetings in all the phases of polling so far. With the sharp rise in Covid-19 we have decided not to hold any big rally to prevent any contamination. We will undertake door to doors and small group meetings with all Covid-19 measures in place.”
Campaigning for the fifth phase of polls ended on Wednesday and the voting will take place on April 17. Salim said both the Centre and state governments should act responsibly towards public safety and not politicise the Covid-19 issue, PTI reported.
Salim, the CPI-M candidate from Chanditala, said the party will work to build more awareness among people about following basic preventive measures against the coronavirus and help the affected population with relief measures, as they did last year.
As West Bengal recorded nearly 5,000 new infections on Tuesday, CPI(M) spokesperson Sujan Chakraborty also tweeted on Wednesday asking people to wear masks and be cautious while urging the state and central governments to speedily provide vaccines.
The decision of the Left party, which is fighting the elections in alliance with the Congress and Indian Secular Front, comes on the same day West Bengal chief electoral officer (CEO) Aariz Aftab announced the call for an all-party meeting on April 16. The call for the meeting comes after the Calcutta High Court directed the CEO and all district magistrates in the state to ensure strict implementation of COVID-19 protocol during campaigning by political parties for the remaining four phases of the Election.
State Additional Director General of Police (Law and Order) Jag Mohan and state health secretary N S Nigam will also be present in the meeting, an EC official told PTI.
Meanwhile, Congress candidate Rezaul Haque from Samsherganj in Murshidabad died on Thursday morning after testing positive for COVID-19. Two other candidates in the poll had earlier tested Covid-19 positive.
West Bengal on Wednesday recorded the highest single-day increase in Covid-19 cases with 5,892 fresh infections. The total active caseload in the state has reached 32,621. The death toll rose to 10,458 as 24 patients died in a day.