Prime Minister Narendra Modi cancelled his election rallies in West Bengal scheduled for Friday, looking at the exponential rise in COVID-19 cases in the country.
He will instead be holding meetings on COVID-19 management with the Chief Ministers of high-burden States and leading oxygen manufacturers of the country.
Mr. Modi said on Twitter, “Tomorrow, will be chairing high-level meetings to review the prevailing COVID-19 situation. Due to that, I would not be going to West Bengal.” He was scheduled to address four meetings, including one at the Shaheed Minar grounds in Kolkata. There was some talk that he might hold a virtual rally on Friday, but Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) sources refused to confirm the same.
The BJP later said Modi will be addressing voters of West Bengal, particularly those in Malda, Murshidabad, Birbhum and Kolkata, through a virtual medium at 5 pm on Friday.
Noting that the BJP realises the gravity of the situation and the rationale for him not being able to visit the state in person, the party's West Bengal chief Dilip Ghosh said they requested him to give one address through a virtual medium to which he agreed.
It’s not clear at the moment whether the suspension of campaign is only for Friday’s meetings or the rest of the campaign time for the last two phases of the West Bengal Assembly election.
The BJP and other political parties came under sharp criticism after their massive rallies and roadshows continued amid skyrocketing COVID-19 cases.
Congress leader Rahul Gandhi had earlier announced that he would not undertake campaigning in West Bengal due to the surge, but the BJP and the Trinamool Congress held big rallies. Hospitals, especially in the National Capital Region, have been running out of oxygen and beds, forcing courts to step in.
West Bengal crossed five figures in daily cases as the election phases passed.
(with inputs from PTI)