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Covid shadow over Bengal polls, one candidate dead


KOLKATA:  The deadly virus has started taking its toll on West Bengal Assembly elections. A Congress candidate died on Thursday of Covid-19. Two other contestants tested positive. The Election Commission (EC) held an all-party meeting, where TMC suggested that the last three phases scheduled for April 22, 26 and 29 be held in one go. However, the EC ruled that the schedule will remain unchanged. The fifth phase is coming up on April 17.

The EC’s meeting with the parties discussed how campaigns should be conducted in the wake of the pandemic. The CPI(M) has announced it would not hold big rallies and asked its workers to carry out door-to-door campaigns and use social media to reach out to voters. West Bengal Congress president Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury said he would welcome the EC’s decision. “Life is more valuable than election,’’ he said. Amit Malvya, BJP’s IT cell head, also said they would abide by the EC’s decision whatever it is.

Rezaul Haque, Congress candidate from Murshidabad district’s Samserganj constituency died in a private hospital in Kolkata. He had tested positive and hospitalised with acute respiratory problem. Left Front’s ally RSP’s candidate from Jangipur, Murshidabad, Pradip Nandi and TMC candidate from Goalpokhar, North Dinajpur, Golam Rabbani also tested positive for Covid-19. Rabbani was admitted to a hospital and Nandi was in home quarantine.

On Wednesday, West Bengal recorded its highest single-day spike of 5,892 cases and 24 deaths. In Kolkata, 1,601 new cases and seven deaths were reported in 24 hours. Reacting to experts, who have been blaming large rallies where Covid protocols are flouted for the sudden spurt in cases, CPI(M) became the first party to say no to big gatherings.

“We will not hold large rallies ahead of the remaining phases of elections. We will lay stress on door-to-door campaigns, campaigning through social media and small street corners. Proper Covid-19 protocols will be followed,’’ said senor leader Mohammad Selim. Campaign for the fifth phase of polls ended on Wednesday, after the EC extended the silence period before polls to 72 hours from 48 hours after the Cooch Behar firing in which four persons were killed.

24-hour campaign ban on Bengal BJP president
New Delhi: The poll panel on Thursday barred West Bengal BJP president Dilip Ghosh from campaigning for 24 hours. The ban was imposed for his alleged remarks that there would be “Sitalkuchi in several places”, a reference to the killing of four people in firing by CISF during poll violence last week. The Election Commission also issued a notice to West Bengal BJP leader Sayantan Basu for his alleged “inflammatory” remark during a speech and asked him to explain his stand within 24 hours.