Bengal To Vote In 5th Phase Today Under Shadow Of Covid Surge: 10 Facts

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Bengal Elections Phase 5: On Thursday, Mamata Banerjee and members of her Trinamool strongly demanded that the three remaining phases – scheduled for April 22, 26 and 29 – be clubbed to check the spread of the coronavirus.

Bengal To Vote In 5th Phase Today Under Shadow Of Covid Surge: 10 Facts

Bengal votes for 45 of 294 seats today.



Kolkata/ New Delhi:
Bengal votes for 45 of 294 seats today in the fifth – and biggest – of its eight poll phases, which are being held amid a surge in Covid cases – over four lakh have been reported in the past 48 hours.

Here are the top 10 facts on 5th phase voting in Bengal:

  1. On Friday evening the Election Commission ordered a 72-hour ‘silence period’, instead of the usual 48 hours, ahead of the remaining rounds of voting. The poll body cited the Covid pandemic and also said election rallies and meetings – on days when campaigning is allowed – would be banned between 7 pm and 10 am.

  2. The Commission, criticised for not enforcing Covid protocols – openly violated by political leaders, including those from the BJP – also said all candidates had to wear face masks, and that it would be the duty of rally organisers to ensure that the thousands of attendees also wore faces masks, maintained social distancing and used hand sanitisers.

  3. These orders came on a day Home Minister Amit Shah held two roadshows and a rally, while Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee held three rallies. Visuals from news agency ANI showed thousands, most without masks and disregarding social distancing protocols, with the organisers were either unwilling or unable to enforce the rules.

  4. On Thursday Ms Banerjee and members of her Trinamool strongly demanded that the three remaining phases – scheduled for April 22, 26 and 29 – be clubbed to check the spread of the coronavirus. The Election Commission ruled out clubbing the phases.

  5. A senior BJP leader told NDTV it was “much riskier” to club the remaining phases as it would be difficult to maintain social distancing. The BJP also told the Commission there was no sign, so far that a “rise in Covid cases could be attributed to the democratic process”. The Left agreed with the BJP on the subject. However, Bengal reported 646 cases on March 27 (the first day of polling) and nearly 7,000 on Friday.

  6. Also on Friday three Trinamool candidates – from Goalpokhar, Tapan and Jalpaiguri – tested positive for COVID-19. A BJP candidate – from the Matigara-Naxalbari seat – has also tested positive. The RSP’s Jangipur candidate, Pradip Kumar Nandi, died Friday after testing positive earlier this week. The Congress’ Rezaul Haque – standing from Murshidabad’s Samsherganj also died from Covid-related complications.

  7. In the build-up to polling both Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee and BJP Bengal chief Dilip Ghosh received 24-hour campaign bans. Ms Banerjee was banned over comments relating to Muslim votes while Mr Ghosh was banned for comments on the Cooch Behar violence.

  8. Today is the fifth and biggest phase of polling in Bengal – with votes being cast in 45 seats across six districts in the north and south of the state. Bengal has already voted for 135 seats and after today’s voting, results for more than half of its 294 seats will be sealed. High-profile contestants include the Trinamool’s Bratya Basu, Gautam Deb and Siddiqullah Chowdhury, and the BJP’s Jagannath Sarkar – one of five MPs nominated by the party.

  9. The BJP is contesting all 45 seats. The ruling Trinamool will contest 42 with three given to allies Gorkha Janmukti Morcha (GJM). The Congress will contest only 11, with alliance partner CPM contesting 25 and the rest given to smaller parties.

  10. In 2016 the Trinamool won 32 seats and over 45 per cent of the votes. The BJP and its allies were left with three seats and less than 13 per cent, while the Congress and the Left (not allies then) won five each. In 2019 the BJP polled over 45 per cent of the votes from these areas – ahead of the Trinamool’s 41 per cent. If that voting pattern holds, the BJP needs only to retain its edge and it is the Trinamool that has to fight back.

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