Long queues nowadays in various locations of Bengal do not always signify election times. These queues are for covid vaccines which have become rather scarce to meet the growing demand. Such queues are seen even in leading government hospitals in Kolkata like SSKM or NRS. The queues are growing longer in the rural areas where health centres are often having no supply for a couple of days or more. Meanwhile, the percentage of increase of the number of daily infection is highest in Bengal now.
Thankfully, the campaign has ended in Bengal. The last phase of polling is due on 29th, and it will be held in the districts of Malda, Murshidabad, Birbhum and in the central and southern parts of Kolkata. Despite the corona situation, the temperature is running high in Birbhum, Murshidabad and Kolkata. However while in the rest of Bengal about 80 per cent or more voters have come to the polling booths on average, in South Kolkata (where polling took place in the seventh phase) the turnout was 70 per cent.
On 29th, a re-poll will be conducted in the booth at Sitalkuchi that was attacked by a mob. Four people died in retaliatory fire by the central forces there. The authorities however are not apprehending any major untoward incident this time. Those who lost their lives belonged to a minority community and their families claimed they were all TMC supporters.
Meanwhile, TMC’s Birbhum district president Anubrata Mandal has been put under strict surveillance from this afternoon to 30th morning. He is known as a strongman and was put under such restrictions earlier too.
But Anubrata was as defiant today as ever when he said, “It means a magistrate and representatives of the Election Commission will move around with me. But one can play even while sitting at home.” He was asked by the CBI to be present in their office today in a cow smuggling case, but following the advice of Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee’s he turned down the request citing his kidney-related ailment as an excuse for his inability.
Meanwhile from Rampurhaat in Birbhum, a report has surfaced today in a leading television channel that claimed 4 people died there in government hospital due to lack of oxygen supply. Though the hospital authorities have denied it, the report has created quite a furore just two days before the elections in the district.
The Election Commission has banned any victory procession on or after 2nd May, the day the results will be out. It has declared only two persons will be allowed to accompany the victorious candidates when they will go to bring home their certificates.
(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)