Seventh phase of West Bengal polls underway amid coronavirus spike
At a time when a raging COVID-19 wave is ripping India apart, the seventh phase of Assembly polls in West Bengal started today. In the penultimate round, the fate of 284 candidates will be decided by nearly 86 lakh voters of 34 Assembly constituencies. Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee's former seat Bhabanipur is also up for grabs. Here are more details.
Veteran Sobhandeb Chattopadhyay is pitted against former TMC leader
As Banerjee decided to contest from Nandigram (and take on her former trusted lieutenant Suvendu Adhikari), the Trinamool Congress fielded veteran Sobhandeb Chattopadhyay from Bhabanipur. The party is hoping that the power minister, who is a local, will help it win the seat for a third consecutive time. The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has fielded Bengali actor Rudranil Ghosh, a former aide of Banerjee, against him.
Chattopadhyay voted for himself for the first time
Chattopadhyay, who cast his vote earlier today, claimed that people will choose development. "This election is being held on those issues (Banerjee's projects). I have been in politics since 1962. This is the first time I am voting for myself," he told ANI. Separately, Ghosh asserted that Bhabanipur voters have become "disillusioned with Mamata Banerjee." "She fled to Nandigram sensing imminent defeat here," he said.
EC had levied curbs on campaigning due to COVID-19 spike
The campaigning for the seventh phase was a low-key affair due to the restrictions enforced by the Election Commission. The apex polling body had banned roadshows and limited the number of attendees in a public gathering to 500. Bengal, like the rest of India, has been witnessing an unprecedented spike in coronavirus cases, with 15,889 new infections and 57 deaths being reported on Sunday.
TMC lost a leader to COVID-19
On Sunday, Kajal Sinha, TMC's nominee from the Khardaha constituency, passed away due to coronavirus. Expressing shock over the incident, Banerjee tweeted that Sinha "dedicated his life to serving people and just fought a tireless campaign." She called him a long-serving committed member of TMC. Earlier, RSP's Pradip Kumar Nandi (Jangipur) and the Congress's Rezaul Haque (Samserganj) also succumbed to the deadly disease.
PM Modi urged people to vote while following coronavirus-linked guidelines
Earlier today, Prime Minister Narendra Modi posted a tweet, urging people to vote. "The seventh phase of the West Bengal elections takes place today. Urging people to exercise their franchise and follow all COVID-19 related protocols," his post read. Notably, PM Modi has received immense criticism for campaigning in Bengal, while the country found itself unprepared to battle the second coronavirus wave.