Mamata Banerjee, the Chief Minister of West Bengal, is apprehensive that the coming phases of polls might be postponed due to a spurt in Covid-19 cases.
She is concerned as President’s rule will have to be imposed on 30th May, the day the term of the present assembly will be over if the new government could not be formed before that date. She is now questioning why the Election Commission is holding the election in so many phases.
The Didi is not worried without a reason. The rate of daily infection crossed the 2,000 mark on Tuesday when the third phase of polls held in the state. The figure that fell to below two hundred was at 2,058 on Tuesday. It was around 4,000 during the days when the infection level had peaked in Bengal. And once again Kolkata is leading the tally with 582 cases. With that, the daily figure of death in the state that came down to zero just a few weeks ago again rose to 7.
The common man too is raising finger at the Election Commission. No, not about the conduct of elections. They are accusing the poll panel of being indifferent about the Covid-19 situation in Bengal.
All over the state, huge political gatherings are working as the super-spreader of the disease. Many health workers and doctors were expressing concerns about these rallies and roadshows in which the majority in the crowd is seen without a mask.
The irony is that even in Kolkata a lot of people now do not use a mask. Even among them who uses mask, many keep it below their noses. If one covers her or his mouth but keeps the nose open, that person remains fully vulnerable.
But you cannot argue with them. Someone answers the weather is so humid that it is impossible to cover the nose. Those who are not wearing the masks argue Covid is less dangerous than many other killer diseases like lung cancer or malignant malaria from which they have no protection!
Even a section of the intellectuals of Kolkata now campaigns to ‘resist the attempt of imposing lockdown’. Search on Facebook and you will find posts that Covid is a myth! “Hunger will kill more people than a lockdown,” argues Sumit Chowdhury, who is appealing to people not to abide by lockdown rules even if it is imposed.
The Bengal government never took any step to implement the Covid rules by using punitive measures like imposing fine, and it has no interest in doing so now when the polls are on.
Meanwhile, it is reported that many of the migrant labourers are coming back to Bengal, apprehending another lockdown and halting of the train services once again. Some of them have come to vote, and some others just out of fear. They are coming from Maharashtra and other badly affected states. They are neither being tested, nor quarantined.
Will Bengal see the worst of the scenarios so far in the coming weeks? Many apprehend the answer is ‘yes’.
(The author Diptendra Raychaudhuri is a senior journalist based in Kolkata. He has a wide range of experience in covering West Bengal politics and has authored several books)