Though Rahul has not addressed many rallies, this puts pressure on the BJP amid calls for political rallies to be called off as COVID-19 cases surge across India.

Rahul Gandhi dressed in a white kurta gestures while addressing a rally File image
news Coronavirus Sunday, April 18, 2021 - 12:02

Congress MP from Wayanad Rahul Gandhi, who only recently began his campaign in West Bengal for the ongoing Assembly elections being held in the state, on Sunday said that he is suspending all his public rallies in view of the rising COVID-19 cases in the country. Rahul Gandhi had begun campaigning in West Bengal much later, after four rounds of voting were over in Bengal. He on April 14 had attended two rallies — his first in the state — in North Bengal in Goalpokher in Uttar Dinajpur and in Siliguri.

“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,” Rahul Gandhi tweeted on Sunday. 

In his earlier rallies, Rahul Gandhi had blamed Prime Minister Narendra Modi for failing to control COVID-19 surge in Bengal. “Modiji and the BJP have failed to control the coronavirus surge in the country. This central government is not bothered about whether you have jobs or lost it. This government is just bothered about a few industrialists and their profit," he had said.

Though Rahul Gandhi has not addressed as many rallies as the leaders of the BJP and the TMC have, the Congress MP’s tweet puts pressure on BJP, at a time when there is a demand that political rallies should be cancelled. Visuals from many recent political rallies in West Bengal showed huge crowds standing in close proximity, without masks, with physical distancing measures violated, thus increasing the risk of spreading the coronavirus infection. 

West Bengal, where three more rounds of polling is to take place, on Saturday registered its highest single-day spike of 7,713 coronavirus cases, taking the tally to 6,51,508, bulletin released by the state health department said. The death toll rose to 10,540 after 34 COVID-19 fatalities were registered in the state, it added. Kolkata on Saturday also accounted for its highest one- day spike of 1,998 new cases along with 10 more casualties. Elections for the 294 assembly seats in West Bengal are being held in eight phases. The votes will be counted on May 2. The fifth phase was held recently on April 17. The remaining phases will be held on April 22, April 26 and April 29. 

Earlier on Friday, amid a massive surge in coronavirus cases across the country, the Election Commission (EC) had asked political parties to ensure "absolute" adherence to COVID-19 guidelines in letter and in sprit.

"Violations , if any shall be sternly dealt with and action, including criminal action, taken as per extant legal framework," it said. The EC said it will be the responsibility of the organisers of public meetings, rallies, to provide masks and sanitisers to every person attending these events at their cost "which shall be added and counted within limits of prescribed expenditure."

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