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‘We are campaigning for civic polls because of more dangerous virus’: Bengal BJP leader amid coronavirus scare

The parties in West Bengal want civic polls deferred.An all-party meeting is scheduled at the state election commission’s office on Monday.

Updated: Mar 16, 2020 10:00 IST

By Snigdhendu Bhattacharya, Hindustan Times Kolkata

BJP state unit president Dilip Ghosh leads a rally in Kolkata on Sunday. (HT Photo)

West Bengal may have shut down schools, colleges and universities to avoid the spread of coronavirus disease Covid-19, but these measures did not deter leaders of Trinamool Congress (TMC) and Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) as they hit the campaign trail on Sunday for the coming civil elections. The leaders addressed and interacted with hundreds of the people during door-to-door campaigns and political marches.

While top leaders of BJP’s Bengal unit, including Members of the Parliament and the state Assembly, marched in different localities of Kolkata and its outskirts with hundreds of their followers, TMC felicitated the party’s veteran workers at events held in towns across the state where hundreds of party workers and supporters gathered.

“We are meeting people every day because there is a more dangerous virus called electoral malpractices from which we need to protect people,” said BJP state unit president Dilip Ghosh, who earlier stirred a controversy saying those who consume prasad offered to gods become immune to Covid-19.

The election in about 100 civic bodies, including Kolkata Municipal Corporation, is slated to take place in April. The municipal elections are widely being seen as a dress rehearsal for the 2021 Assembly elections. An all-party meeting is scheduled at the state election commission’s office on Monday. It remains to be seen if parties raise the issue during the meeting and seek the elections to be deferred.

The way the two parties have hit the streets with hundreds of workers has prompted many to call for a deferment of the elections. “The elections can easily be held a month later. Why risk people’s lives when deferring the election is a minor issue compared to the threat from Covid?” said Amal Kumar Mukhopadhyay, former principal of Presidency College.

State urban development minister and Kolkata mayor Firhad Hakim, who too participated in public events on Sunday, said that the state government and the ruling party had no objections to whatever the poll panel would deem fit.

Ghosh, who is also a Lok Sabha member, on Sunday led a march at ward no 97 of Kolkata Municipal Corporation and attended two Cha-Chakra or tea parties at two other wards. All three events were attended by several hundred people. Attendees were not seen wearing masks.

Barrackpore’s BJP MP Arjun Singh led hundreds of supporters during his visit to various municipal wards at Kashinpur-Belgachhia in Kolkata’s northern outskirts. The party’s ‘Bengal observer’, national general secretary Kailash Vijayvargiya campaigned in north Kolkata.

TMC leaders did not lag behind. All members of the state Assembly attended events were veteran party workers were felicitated. This programme was part of TMC’s recently-launched Banglar Gorbo Mamata (Bengal’s pride Mamata) programme.

“Nearly 500 people gathered at the event we conducted,” said Manas Majumdar, TMC legislator from Goghat in Hooghly district.

Party’s secretary-general and education and parliamentary affairs minister Partha Chatterjee addressed an indoor meeting attended by a few hundred people at Behala area in Kolkata.

Meanwhile, the iconic Belur Maath has restricted the devotees’ gathering at the main temple and access to the institute’s president. In Kolkata, top museums including Indian Museum and Birla Industrial and Technical Museum have been shut.


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