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EC restricts roadshows, public meets in WB

KOLKATA, APR 22 (AGENCIES) | Publish Date: 4/22/2021 12:40:20 PM IST

Noting that COVID safety norms were being flouted in West Bengal during campaigning, the Election Commission on Thursday banned road shows and vehicle rallies in the state with immediate effect and said no public meeting having more than 500 people would be allowed, reports News18.com. The order said the commission has noted “with anguish” that many political parties and candidates are still not adhering to the prescribed safety norms during the public gatherings. The orders came into force from 7 pm on Thursday.

“The commission has noted with anguish that many political parties/candidates are still not adhering to the prescribed safety norms during the public gatherings…,” the order read.
“ … the commission invoking its powers under Article 324 further orders that with effect from7 pm of April 22, in the state of West Bengal no roadshow/padyatra shall be permissible; No cycle/bike/vehicle rally shall be permissible; No public meeting beyond the limit of 500 persons at a place subject to availability of adequate space with social distancing, adhering to COVID-19 safety norms, shall be permissible,” the order said. It made clear that permission for road shows, cycle, bike or vehicle rallies, if granted already, stands withdrawn.
Following EC orders, West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee cancelled all her pre-scheduled poll meetings. She will now address the public rallies virtually.
Earlier in the day, Prime Minister Narendra Modi cancelled his election campaign scheduled for April 23 in four districts of West Bengal as the COVID-19 cases in the country rise alarmingly. “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,” the prime minister said.
PM Modi, who was scheduled to address 4 rallies across 4 districts and 56 assembly constituencies, will now address the people of Malda, Murshidabad, Birbhum and Kolkata virtually at 5 pm on Friday.
The order came on a day when the state registered highest single-day spike of nearly 12,000 COVID-19 cases. In a letter addressed to heads of all recognised parties on Wednesday, the commission had referred to the directions of the Calcutta High Court issued on Tuesday which said that it would be open for the EC and the state chief electoral officer to take requisite steps and also to ensure successful implementation of COVID protocols by requiring strict compliance of prescribed guidelines and orders by all political parties, candidates and all other concerned with the poll process.
The EC had recently prohibited campaign between 7 pm and 10 am to discourage public gatherings. It has also extended the silence period to 72 hours from 48 hours before end of poll in each phase of poll in Phase 6, Phase 7 and Phase 8 in West Bengal.
In view of extension of silence period, there would in any case be no campaigning from 6.30 pm on April 26 (date of poll of 7th phase) to April 29 (date of poll of 8th phase). The BJP had on Monday decided to stop holding large rallies, gatherings and meetings for the West Bengal assembly elections, capping attendance at 500 due to the rising COVID-19 cases.
The Trinamool Congress had urged EC to club the last three phases of polls to check the spread of the virus. The EC had on Wednesday told the TMC that its suggestion was not feasible and had cited the election law to turn down the request.
West Bengal on Thursday registered the highest single-day spike of 11,948 COVID-19 cases, taking the tally beyond the 7-lakh mark, the health department said in its bulletin. The death toll also went up to 10,766 as 56 more patients succumbed to the disease, it said.
The tally of 11,948 fresh infections pushed the state’s coronavirus caseload to 7,00,904. In the last 24 hours, 6,590 patients recovered from coronavirus, while the number of active cases in the state currently is 68,798, the bulletin said.
Since Wednesday, 53,154 samples were tested for COVID-19 in West Bengal taking the total number of tests to 1,00,03,490, it added.

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