Assembly polls | Campaigns in West Bengal continue despite surge in COVID cases

CM Mamata Banerjee, Union Home Minister Amit Shah hold public rallies; Modi to canvas this week

West Bengal on Monday registered a record 8,426 new cases of COVID-19 and 38 deaths in the past 24 hours even as the political campaign by the BJP and Trinamool Congress continued in full swing across several districts of the State.

Union Home Minister Amit Shah and BJP president J.P. Nadda held public meetings in different parts of the State. The Home Minister addressed public meetings at Pandaveshwar in Paschim Bardhaman and at Chakulia and Kaliaganj in Uttar Dinjpur district.

The BJP president campaigned in Raiganj in Dakshin Dinajpur and Bolpur in Birbhum district. Among the other BJP leaders that campaigned in the State was Union Minister Smriti Irani and State BJP president Dilip Ghosh.

In a shift from road shows to meetings in closed spaces by the BJP leadership. Mr. Nadda addressed at a meeting at the Bolpur Town Hall and Ms Irani held a meeting at the Science City Auditorium.

Also read: West Bengal polls | Mamata Banerjee repeats demands for clubbing last three phases of polls

From the Trinamool Congress, Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee addressed three public meetings at Uttar Dinjapur’s Chakulia, Hemtabad and Kaliaganj. Her nephew Abhishek Banerjee, the star campaigner for the ruling party, held public meetings in Purba Bardhaman’s Ketuagram, Ausgram and Bhatar.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi is scheduled to campaign on April 24 and BJP leaders said there was no information about cancellation of his public meeting.

Along with the campaign, a war of words over the COVID surge continued between the two parties.

“Mamata Banerjee is strictly following the COVID protocol, has curtailed her meetings, speeches and public engagements. Does the BJP have the courage to follow her example? Or are votes more valuable for them than human lives?” TMC leader and former Union Minister Yashwant Sinha said.

Also read: West Bengal Assembly polls | BJP decides to stop large rallies, restricts crowds to 500

Union Minister and senior BJP leader Ravi Shankar Prasad who held a press conference in Kolkata said elections are a “Constitutional obligation”, and the matter should be left to the EC.

West Bengal Pradesh Congress president Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury and Rabin Deb of the Communist Party of India (Marxist) have asked the EC that polling for Shamsherganj and Jangipur — rescheduled because of death of Samyukt Morcha candidates — should be held after Ramzan.

6th phase campaign

Campaigning for the sixth phase of the Assembly polls, scheduled on April 22, for 43 Assembly constituencies ended on Monday. The ECI has extended the silent period from 48 hours to 72 hours for the remaining phases.

Nine seats in Uttar Dinjapur district in north Bengal will go to polls along with 17 constituencies in North 24 Parganas district, nine each in Nadia, eight in Purba Bardhaman district. A total of 306 contestants are in the fray including TMC ministers like Jyotipriya Mullick and Chandrima Bhattacharya, senior BJP leaders Mukul Roy and Rahul Sinha and sitting MLAs of Samyukt Morcha like Ali Imran Ramz of All India Forward Bloc and Tanmoy Bhattacharya of Communist party of India (Marxist).

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