Elections 2021

As Covid surges, Modi calls off Bengal rallies

Abhishek Law Kolkata | Updated on April 22, 2021

PM will be chairing a high-level meeting to review the Covid-19 situation

With a second wave of Covid-19 infections engulfing the country, Prime Minister Narendra Modi cancelled all his rallies after the sixth phase of polling on Thursday.

Voter turnout in Phase VI – when 43 constituencies in North 24 Parganas, Nadia, Uttar Dinajpur and Purba Bardhaman went to polls – was 79.09 per cent. “Voters set an example of Covid-19 appropriate behaviour following due protocols of sanitisation and social distancing,” said the Election Commission. The Commission monitored 7,466 out of the 14,480 polling stations through webcasting. Drones were used to keep watch over the process.

Polls remained “largely peaceful” except stray incidents of violence being reported in North 24 Parganas with clashes between the Trinamool and BJP, crude bombs being hurled, allegations of riggings and harassment of candidates.

High level meetings

Modi was supposed to address four rallies - with crowds being restricted to 500 - in West Bengal, the last being in Kolkata where where over 2,500 fresh Covid infections are being reported daily.

Modi announced on twitter that he would be chairing a high level meeting to review the Covid-19 situation in the country because of which rallies in West Bengal stand cancelled.

“Tomorrow, I will be chairing high-level meetings to review the prevailing Covid-19 situation. Due to that, I would not be going to West Bengal,” he wrote on the micro-blogging site.

The BJP had already clubbed four rallies of the Prime Minister – scheduled on April 22 and April 24 – into a single one on April 23.

Sixth phase, rally wars

The Prime Minister may address people virtually, at 5 PM on Friday, a release from the state unit of the BJP said. Over the last few days, a Twitter war erupted as to whether there was a need to hold so many rallies in a State where hospital beds and other resources are stretched because of the pandemic.

West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee has claimed she will hold just one rally in the city on November 26 (she has done four previously) and curtail her campaigning / speech time in districts to 30 minutes.

Six phases of the eight-phase polling have been completed, the last being held on April 22. The next two phases are scheduled for April 26 and 29.

‘Will TMC follow?’

Minutes after the Prime Minister announced cancellation of his rallies, BL Santosh, National General Secretary, BJP, put out a tweet questioning why the West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee was not calling off her scheduled rallies.

“Now that PM , HM, National President have curtailed campaign plans , will the conscience keepers of Democracy who are in abundance question why @MamataOfficial is continuing her Covid guidelines on non-compliant rallies across West Bengal...” he questioned.

Published on April 22, 2021

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