Lucknow: With coronavirus cases seeing a sudden spurt in the country, the Congress has cancelled all poll rallies in poll-bound Uttar Pradesh. Meanwhile, Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath has cancelled his rally in Noida, which was scheduled to be held on Thursday.
The Congress on Wednesday decided to put on hold all its big public rallies and functions, including marathons, following a “stampede-like situation” during a women's marathon. In the competition, entitled 'Ladki Hoon, Lad Sakti Hoon', organised by the Congress party in Uttar Pradesh's Bareilly on Tuesday, nearly a half of dozen people were injured.
The marathon was organised ahead of the Uttar Pradesh Assembly polls scheduled to take place early this year.
"Congress has decided to postpone major rallies in Uttar Pradesh and other poll-bound states. We have asked state units to assess the COVID-19 situation in their states and take a decision on holding rallies," Congress General Secretary (Organisation) KC Venugopal told news agency ANI.
The UP unit of Congress has postponed its 'Ladki Hoon Lad Sakti Hoon' marathon due to the rise in COVID-19 cases. Around seven to eight marathons were planned in Noida, Varanasi, and various other districts of the state in the coming days.
Meanwhile, the Uttar Pradesh Congress Committee has written to Chief Election Commissioner Sushil Chandra “to cancel big rallies” in view of the anticipated third wave of COVID-19.
The AICC has asked all PCCs in the poll-bound states to assess the situation in their respective states and then take a call on postponement of rallies and public functions.
Sources also confirmed Newsclick that Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s election rally in Lucknow, which is scheduled to be held on January 9, is likely to be cancelled in view of inclement weather alert and in view of the evolving Covid-19 situation and rising number of new cases in Uttar Pradesh.
Commenting over offline rallies amid increasing cases, Samajwadi Party (SP) spokesperson Abdul Hafiz Gandhi said, “Public health is of utmost importance and we want every citizen of Uttar Pradesh to be safe and secure. We want that election must be conducted following every precaution.”
Gandhi further told Newsclick that “Safer, free and fair election is a constitutional obligation of the Election Commission. The decision has to be taken by Election Commission of India. Election Commission must consult all political parties on this issue. We, as a responsible and law abiding party, will follow any such decision in letter and spirit.”
When asked about online rallies, he said, “We are prepared for any eventuality. This time SP is fully equipped for election campaigns both offline and online.”
Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) spokesperson MH Khan told Newsclick, “Everyone is seeing who is holding back to back rallies in the state. Both PM Modi and CM Yogi Adityanath have been continuously holding rallies across the state and no one is wearing a mask. Who will get affected? Actually they don’t care about poor people. For them, the people are just a tool for elections. The government invoked night curfew while attending rallies in the day time.” He alleged, “Basically, the Election Commission of India is also backing up the ruling government. Once all rallies, public gatherings of Modi and Yogi will end, the Election Commission will wake up from its deep slumber and announce restrictions on rallies. Till then, the situation will be out of hand like the second wave of the pandemic.”
When questioned about his party’s stand about rallies amid rising COVID-19 cases, Khan said, “Our party chief Mayawati has attended one rally so far and we are not organising any big rally, and instead doing it on district level keeping in mind the Covid protocols.”
Uttar Pradesh witnessed a major surge in COVID-19 cases on Tuesday, with 992 fresh cases reported within 24 hours. The tally of the active cases crossed the 3,000 mark and rose to 3,173, close to the number of active cases on June 26 when there were 3,197 active cases in the state.
The state also recorded increase in the Omicron variant of coronavirus. Within 24 hours, 18 fresh cases of Omicron were detected in the state, taking the total tally to 26. The state government had stepped up the genome sequencing of samples to identify the new variant, said additional chief secretary of health and family welfare, Amit Mohan Prasad.
Newsclick also spoke to Dr C S Verma, President of the public health outfit Jan Swasthya Abhiyan (JSA), Uttar Pradesh, to know how different this Omicron variant is and whether the situation would be different from the second wave. Dr Verma said, “Rallies are completely unsafe and it is not advisable. Though this variant is not that effective but still we cannot take it lightly. The Election Commission could have postponed the election.”
Another health worker based in eastern UP said the situation was not so good on the ground and the government hospitals or community health centres were still lacking basic facilities.