Bengal polls 2021: CPM decides against holding large rallies amid Covid surge
The CPM has decided against holding large rallies ahead of the remaining phases of Assembly polls in view of an alarming rise in Covid-19 cases in the state.
The move comes at a time experts have been blaming large political rallies, where Covid-19 protocols are being flouted, for the sudden spurt in positive cases in the state over the past few weeks.
The CPM has become the first political party to initiate the step voluntarily and medical experts described the move as “responsible behaviour”.
“We have decided that we will not hold large rallies ahead of the remaining phases of elections. We will lay stress on door-to-door campaign, campaign through social media and small street corners. Door-to-door campaigns and street corners would be held following proper Covid-19 protocols,” said Md Salim, CPM politburo member, at Alimuddin Street on Wednesday.
This means the CPM would not hold large rallies for the sixth, seventh and eighth phases of the polls.
The campaign for the fifth phase of the polls, scheduled for April 17, came to an end on Wednesday as the Election Commission had extended the silence period before the polls to 72 hours from 48 hours after the Sitalkuchi firing.
Salim also said his party would request its allies like other Left parties, Congress and the ISF to follow the same path to ensure that the spread of the virus could be contained.
He also said party workers would continue to work for distressed people like they had done during the first wave of the pandemic. Salim added that the CPM would use social networking platforms to reach out to voters in view of the pandemic.
Experts welcomed the CPM’s move and said it would put pressure on other political parties to follow Covid-19 protocols.
“It is astonishing that other parties like the Trinamul Congress and the BJP, which are organising huge rallies across the state, remained silent about following Covid-19 protocols like wearing masks and maintaining physical distance. They should take a cue from the CPM,” said a member of Covid-19 patient management team.
“The situation is really grim... Already there is a scarcity of hospital beds in Calcutta and its surrounding areas. Still, rallies are being held in Calcutta and North 24-Parganas, the areas from where majority of the cases are being reported, as elections are due here,” said a source.
Chief minister Mamata Banerjee has, however, blamed the BJP for the spurt in positive cases in the state.
“We had brought the situation under control. But the BJP is bringing in thousands of people from outside and they are spreading the virus in the state,” said Mamata while addressing an election rally in Jalpaiguri on Wednesday.
The BJP said the entire country was facing the second wave and Bengal was no exception.
“The chief minister is herself the health minister of the state and the government has done nothing to prevent the spread of the virus,” said Jayprakash Mazumdar, a state BJP leader.
Officials in the health department said that the state government had taken several initiatives like increasing hospital beds, generating awareness, bringing down attendance of government employees to 50 per cent and increasing the number of tests.
“But several other steps like imposing night curfew or setting up of containment zones could not be initiated right at this moment as elections are yet to be completed in a large part of the state. The problem has become more critical as elections were not over in Calcutta and North 24-Parganas where restrictions are immediately needed,” said a senior official.
The Election Commission has decided to convene an all-party meeting on Friday to discuss the Covid-19 situation in the state.
“The poll panel would request the political parties to ensure that Covid-19 protocols are followed properly in case of large gatherings. The poll panel expects that political parties would come forward as they have a responsibility towards the society,” said a source in the poll panel.
According to the bulletin issued by the health department on Wednesday, the Covid -19 situation is alarming in the state.
A total of 5,892 positive cases were reported in the state on Wednesday and majority were from Calcutta and North 24-Parganas where election campaigns are still on.
On Wednesday, Calcutta reported 1,601 cases, while North 24-Parganas logged 1,277 infections.
The number of deaths jumped to 24 on Wednesday from 20 on Tuesday.
“This is alarming. If the political parties don’t come forward and behave responsibly, more than 10,000 cases could be reported every day by the end of this month,” said a source.