Amid a spike in coronavirus infections in poll-bound West Bengal, Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee on April 18 said the Trinamool Congress (TMC) would organise small meetings in Kolkata and she would give short speeches in rallies in districts where polling would be held in the remaining three phases.
Speaking to a TV channel, Banerjee said she would shorten her speeches at the campaign in different parts of the state to around 20 minutes or so from the usual time of 50 minutes to one hour so that the people don’t have to stay long at the meetings.
“Yes, we have decided to hold small meetings, street corner-type ones, in the city in the campaigning for the next three phases. We will not hold any big gathering any more. Also, my speeches in the meetings addressed by me will be much shorter,” she said.
Trinamool Rajya Sabha member Derek O’Brien also announced that the CM will not campaign in Kolkata. He tweeted, “Mamata Banerjee will NOT campaign in Kolkata anymore. Only one symbolic’ meeting on the last day of campaigning in the city on April 26. Slashes time for all her election rallies in all districts. Restricted to just 30 minutes.”
Earlier, Congress leader Rahul Gandhi had announced the cancellation of all his public rallies in West Bengal following a rapid rise in COVID-19 cases in the country.
He also advised all other politicians to think about the consequences of holding large public rallies. “In view of the COVID situation, I am suspending all my public rallies in West Bengal. I would advise all political leaders to think deeply about the consequences of holding large public rallies under the current circumstances,” he said on Twitter.
The COVID-19 caseload of West Bengal, where an eight-phase assembly election is underway, soared to 6,59,927 as the state registered its highest single-day spike of 8,419 fresh infections on Sunday, a health bulletin said.
Twenty-eight fresh fatalities pushed the state’s coronavirus death toll to 10,568, it said.
Kolkata reported the highest number of new cases at 2,197, followed by 1,860 in neighbouring North 24 Parganas district. North 24 Parganas registered six fresh fatalities, followed by five in Kolkata.