The covid-19 infection has risen 560 percent in Bengal in just 18 days. On the 1st of April, the number of daily affected was 1,274, and on the 18th it stood at 8,419. About 60 percent of these cases are from Kolkata and its surrounding districts, where the concentration of population is highest in Bengal.
In view of it, Mamata Banerjee has decided to hold only one rally in Kolkata. The Left-Congress combine has earlier decided not to hold any rally in the state. But, for perceptible reasons, the BJP has not responded to the need of the time.
West Bengal is the eighth most affected state in India as far as Covid-19 is concerned. Though not comparable with Mumbai or Delhi, the rising number in Kolkata (2,197 on Sunday) and its surroundings has become a cause of concern. And at last, now people have started wearing a mask again. However, in Bengal, in no time during the last 14 months of covid infection, anyone was fined for not wearing masks. The laxity of the administration has encouraged the people to not care for covid restrictions.
Now, during the times of polls, all the sides have started playing their games. Mamata Banerjee claims the surge in covid cases is due to the presence of ‘outsiders’ in the state. In all her public rallies, she is also raising question on why the centre has not provided her vaccine for the 10 crore population of Bengal. As the vaccine makers have been able to supply nationwide just 11 crore doses so far in the first three months of vaccination, the CM’s allegation may sound illogical to the well-informed. But the maverick Didi does not care.
Meanwhile, on behalf of the TMC, Derek O’Brien has tweeted, “Mamata Banerjee will not campaign in Kolkata anymore. Only one ‘symbolic’ meeting on the last day of campaigning in the city on April 26th.” Derek has also let it known that the Bengal Chief Minister has decided to slash the time of her speeches to 30 minutes in the districts.
But such a no-rally decision has not been taken by the TMC supremo for the districts, even those adjoining Kolkata. Out of 114 constituencies going to polls in the next three phases, only 11 falls in Kolkata. The BJP sees a design in the announcement of the CM. They feel those 11 seats that fall within the Kolkata corporation area are bastions of the TMC and the CM need not campaign there intensively.
However, to break the bastion they need to carry on extensive campaigning there. But they are not sure of the impact of their intensive campaigning during this critical time, and so they have not reacted yet to this decision of the CM.
Meanwhile, the state government have decided to close all schools from tomorrow. The government offices will be run with fifty per cent stuff on daily basis. The state has also asked the private concerns to go back to ‘work from home’ schedule as far as possible.
As the hospitals have started returning corona patients for lack of bed, the government hospitals have been asked to increase 20 per cent beds for Covid patients and the private hospitals 25 per cent. Whether it will be enough is doubtful as the experts feel within a few days the daily infection number will cross 10,000 mark.
(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)
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