West Bengal Elections: High Participation In Times Of COVID-19

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Covid-19 cases are now three times higher in West Bengal than the peak of the first wave. The daily affected figure has crossed 15 thousand (15,889) on Sunday. The experts feel the figure is likely to cross 20 thousand by this week. Under the circumstances, the Election Commission has taken initiative to strictly follow the rules of physical distancing during today’s polling.

Citizens started pouring into the booths from the morning, and by 9 AM, nearly 20 per cent of votes were polled. By 1.15, it grew to nearly 46.32 percent. Despite low voting in 4 constituencies of Kolkata, the overall percentage is likely to go near 80 per cent.

Polls are being held today in 34 constituencies in the districts of Murshidabad (11), Paschim Bardhaman (9), Malda (6) Dakshin Dinajpur (6) and Kolkata (4). Except for Kolkata, the rest of the districts fall in the central region of West Bengal. Malda and Murshidabad are Muslim majority districts. Dakshin Dinajpur and Paschim Bardhaman are at the periphery of this Muslim majority zone.

The high voting percentage in the time of COVID-19 has become a characteristic feature of this election. With dry westerly wind entering Bengal the temperature is high, both literally and metaphorically, but people are out to vote in large numbers from the morning. The BJP feels quite enthusiastic about it.

The Cong-Left-ISF combination too feels it signifies strong anti-incumbency. The TMC however claim that people are coming out to defeat the ‘outsiders’. Meanwhile, the analysts, particularly those associated with conducting exit polls, are now trying to find out the significance of this enthusiasm of the voters.

Mamata Banerjee, the Chief Minister, has described the paramilitary jawans as ‘outsiders’ too, and is exhorting the people to not to let the jawans come close to them. She is even asking her supporters not to allow the police to detain them as the police stations are covid dens. She believes such tactics will help her win this election. The BJP has described it as encouraging lawlessness.

Banerjee alleges that her party workers are selectively being detained as the EC is working at the behest of the BJP. She has threatened to move the Supreme Court after the election about all these.

(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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