By Pragya KaushikaPurba Bardhaman (West Bengal) [India], April 19 (ANI): The spike in the COVID-19 cases has changed the way of campaign in Purbasthali Uttar constituency in Purba Bardhaman which will go the polls in the sixth phase of Bengal polls on April 22. The crowd is thin, shrill speeches have been replaced by the party songs played on e-rickshwas and those campaigning are donning masks, some on face, some on chins.
While Bharatiya Janata Party and Trinamool Congress have had rallies in the constituency in one of the most aggressively fought state elections, Sanyukt morcha candidate Pradip Kumar Saha, who belongs to CPI(M), has to make do with 'potho sabhas'.
CPI(M) had decided against hold big rallies and meetings but the BJP leaders claimed it has more to do with the Left Front part's "limitations" in mustering crowds.
"We had our big rally on March 17. We had few plans for Sunday but that had to be postponed," said Saha, sitting in a small office with Lal Salam posters adorning the tin wall.
"We requested the party to allow big meetings and rallies to counter BJP and TMC campaign but the decision to not have crowds in campaigning is a decision taken by the party leaders. We have to abide by it," he added.
Saha said that he too wanted to scale up campaigning looking at his opponents but could not.
"It is challenging to not have an equal opportunity. However, I believe that my party will win this seat again as they have risen above politics and took a decision for people's well being. We asked the leadership to have some big events but they have decided against it considering the COVID situation," he added.
The BJP has held a rally of Union Home Minister Amit Shah here while Trinamool Congress leader and Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee has campaigned for the party in the constituency. Local leaders of both parties say they have now toned down the campaign to minimal.
BJP candidate Gobardhan Das, Professor, Molecular Medicine, JNU, said that COVID protocols need to be followed.
He said the BJP-led government was taking steps to deal with COVID-19 situation and noted that there should be more research on vaccines as the virus is mutating.
"I know about COVID-19, being a scientist. We are taking care of COVID protocols. We have reduced our strength in campaigning to one thirds. We are emphasising on masks, sanitizers," he said.
Das said he will continue with his academic research along with his political life.
He expressed his concern over COVID-19 situation in the national capital.
"Today what I see in Delhi, it is going beyond control. Everything should be done in new normal, not just campaigning. While I take precautions, overexcited supporters, at times, ask for selfies and I cannot say no. However, I try to maintain distance. In all my campaign, I ask people to wear mask as COVID is spreading rapidly and they should follow the protocols. Many follow the protocols but there are many who do not. Social distancing is biggest problem during door to door campaign," Das said.
TMC candidate Tapan Chatterjee said that he too has scaled down campaigning in past two days following the Election Commission's directions concerning COVID protocols.
Amid a record spike in COVID-19 cases in the country, the Election Commission has decided to curtail the timings of campaigns for the remaining phases and extended the silence period to 72 hours for each of the phases.
The COVID-19 situation in the country continues to deteriorate with another highest single-day spike of over 2.73 lakh cases and 1,619 deaths in the last 24 hours. (ANI)