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West Bengal Election 2021: CM Mamata Banerjee, PM Narendra Modi to virtually address rallies; EC bans roadshows, pad yatras

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West Bengal PollsWest Bengal PollsPM Narendra Modi and CM Mamata Banerjee will now address virtual rally in the last leg of campaign. (PTI)

As West Bengal keeps reporting a record number of news cases every day, Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee have decided to address their rallies virtually. Banerjee yesterday cancelled all pre-scheduled poll meetings after the Election Commission banned roadshows and vehicle rallies for the remaining phases of the ongoing assembly polls in the state. The CM said she will address people virtually. “In the wake of upsurge in #COVID-19 cases across the country and the ECI order dated 22nd April, 2021, I am cancelling all my pre-scheduled meetings and we will reach out to the people virtually,” Banerjee tweeted.

Earlier in the day, Prime Minister Narendra Modi also announced to cancel his West Bengal visit scheduled today as he will be chairing high-level meetings in New Delhi to review the prevailing COVID-19 situation. The prime minister was scheduled to address four public meetings across four districts and 56 assembly constituencies. After the PM announced to cancel his visit, the party’s West Bengal chief Dilip Ghosh said that they requested him to give one address through a virtual medium to which he agreed. The BJP informed that PM Modi will be addressing voters of Malda, Murshidabad, Birbhum and Kolkata, through a virtual medium at 5 pm today.

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Congress leader Rahul Gandhi and CPI-M General Secretary Sitaram Yechury have already withdrawn from the campaigning. While Rahul Gandhi has tested COVID-19 positive, Yechury is in home isolation.

Expressing anguish that COVID-related safety protocols were being flouted in West Bengal during campaigning, the Election Commission yesterday placed an immediate ban on roadshows, ‘pad yatras’ and vehicle rallies in the state and limited the number of people in public meetings to 500. Using its constitutional powers, the commission issued an order placing fresh restrictions on physical campaigning in the state where two more phases of elections are due on April 26 and 29.

In a letter addressed to all recognised parties, the commission referred to the directions of the Calcutta High Court 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 counting of votes will be held on May 2.

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