Bengal Polls 2021: Finally, PM puts Covid fight above rallies
Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Thursday evening announced cancellation of his four Bengal election events scheduled for Friday, citing the need to attend high-powered meetings on Covid-19.
Modi announced the last-minute cancellation of the election rallies on Twitter.
The Bengal BJP, which was in a quandary over what would happen to the party’s chances in the remaining 71 seats for the final two phases, later said Modi would address the people of the state virtually.
“Tomorrow, will be chairing high-level meetings to review the prevailing COVID-19 situation. Due to that, I would not be going to West Bengal,” posted Modi on the microblogging site at 5.24pm.
The announcement reflected a belated desperation to salvage the intensifying perception of the government abdicating it’s responsibility to battle the pandemic and focusing only on wresting power in Bengal.
On Friday, Modi would also hold a meeting with chief ministers of states badly affected by Covid-19, apart from other sessions including one with oxygen manufacturers.
Lack of life saving oxygen amid a deluge of seriously infected patients has emerged as a big challenge and put the central government on the back foot. The Centre is fully responsible for the allocation and supply of medical oxygen to states.
The central government has been widely blamed for not preparing for the second surge of Covid despite being aware of it.
BJP managers indicated that there was thinking among the leaders that all big rallies by top honchos should be called off in view of the worsening Covid situation. Top honchos meant Modi, Union home minister Amit Shah and BJP chief J.P. Nadda. There was, however, no official announcement to clarify the situation.
Sections in the BJP said the perception of the “government and the party obsessed with elections was harmful” when people were dying in large numbers from Covid-19.
Around an hour after Modi’s tweet, the state unit of the BJP announced that instead of the four rallies — in Malda, Behrampore, Suri and Calcutta — the Prime Minister would address the people virtually, with state and district level-leaders present at the four venues.
After Modi’s post, the BJP’s national general-secretary (organisation), B.L. Santosh, took a swipe at Trinamul Congress chief Mamata Banerjee for continuing with her “non-compliant rallies” in the state.
Trinamul, however, was unwilling to relent. “India is being panned globally for the way the pandemic was allowed to get out of hand in the second wave. The buck stops with the Prime Minister who prioritises election victories over the health of Indian citizens,” said Trinamul spokesperson Bratya Basu.
“Modi did what he did under pressure from the examples set by the likes of Mamata Banerjee,” he added.
Basu pointed out that Amit Shah continued with his Bengal programmes, as usual, on Thursday as well.