COVID-19 pandemic situation is grim; Congress candidate dies at Kolkata hospital.
With the country in the midst of a second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Trinamool Congress (TMC) is likely to ask the EC to hold polling for all the remaining Assembly constituencies in West Bengal on a single day, instead of following the existing schedule with four phases still to go.
So far, the West Bengal Assembly polls have been held for 135 seats, and the remaining 159 seats go to the polls between April 17 and 29.
Sources said the party would be raising the issue at a meeting called by the Chief Electoral Officer of West Bengal on Friday.
The Election Commission of India’s (EC) spokesperson in Delhi said that Friday’s meeting was only to ask all political parties to strictly adhere to the COVID-19 protocol issued by the Commission. The EC also clarified that there was “no plan of clubbing the remaining phases”.
According to the Union Health Ministry’s numbers, West Bengal had reported 32,621 active COVID-19 cases as on Thursday morning. The situation in the State is grim. Congress candidate from Samserganj in Murshidabad, Rejaul Haque, died at a Kolkata hospital on Thursday morning. He had tested positive for COVID-19.
TMC leaders said that they had always been opposed to the eight phases of elections announced by the Election Commission, and in view of the spurt in COVID-19 cases, it was imperative that the Assembly elections in the State were curtailed. Party president and West Bengal CM Mamata Banerjee had questioned the EC’s neutrality with regard to the eight-phase elections, saying States of a similar size, such as Bihar and Assam, only had three-phase polls.
“We did NOT want an 8 Phase election in the first place,” TMC Rajya Sabha floor leader Derek O’ Brien tweeted. He added, without naming anyone, “The TWO will say, let people die. But don’t do anything to thwart our blind ambition of ‘winning Bengal’.”
The party is, however, not making any commitment on scaling down its campaign and not holding large public meetings in view of the rising number of cases, which the Left Front had announced on Wednesday. On Friday, Ms. Banerjee will be addressing four public meetings, and Lok Sabha MP Abhishek Banerjee has one road show and one public meeting on his schedule.
“It is up to the Election Commission to decide the schedule for polls in West Bengal. But in the given situation, how are Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Home Minister Amit Shah holding massive public meetings in the State? We have, on the other hand, already announced yesterday that the Left Front will not hold any public meetings. It is up to the other parties to follow the course,” Communist Party of India (Marxist) general secretary Sitaram Yechury told The Hindu.