Opposing Mamata Banerjee's demand that the remaining phases of the Bengal election be packed into one day of polling, the BJP today told the Election Commission that there was no sign so far that a "rise in Covid cases could be attributed to the democratic process".
The "right accorded to 61 per cent of the state's candidates should be given to the remaining 39 per cent", the BJP said, urging the Election Commission to keep all rounds of voting intact in the interest of a level-playing field.
"Elections held recently do not reveal any trend by which rise in Covid cases can be attributed to democratic process," the ruling party said, assuring the Election body that it would follow Covid protocol.
In consonance with these views were images of crowded BJP rallies and roadshows where there were hardly any masks or social distancing.
This, on a day India reported another grim record of Covid cases in a day - 2,17,353.
Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee and her Trinamool Congress have strongly demanded that three remaining phases of Bengal voting on April 22, 26 and 29 be clubbed to check the raging infection.
"Amid an ongoing pandemic, we firmly opposed (the Election Commission's) decision to conduct the Bengal polls in eight phases. Now, in view of the huge surge in #COVID19 cases, I urge the ECI to consider holding the remaining phases in ONE go. This will protect the people from further exposure to #COVID19," Ms Banerjee tweeted last evening.
Her party MP Mahua Moitra called it "criminal negligence bordering on manslaughter" to hold an eight-phase election in the middle of "worst pandemic". She tweeted: "Unbelievable that we are being put through this. Infections, deaths rising everyday."
The Election Commission ruled out clubbing the phases.
A senior BJP leader told NDTV that it was "much riskier" to club the remaining phases as it would be difficult to maintain social distancing. "It is better to have scattered elections. Also campaign rights of every candidate, even independents and those belonging to smaller parties should be protected," said the leader.
The Left was on the same side of the BJP on the subject.
The Left Front told an all-party meeting called by the Chief Electoral Officer that the poll schedule should be maintained, CPI(M) Rajya Sabha member Bikash Bhattacharya said.
"Our point is that the schedule should be maintained. The election is in motion. There is no question of change of schedule at this point of time," Mr Bhattacharya said.
Kerala, Assam, Tamil Nadu and Puducherry have finished with their elections. The results will be announced on May 2.