Expressing concern that Maharashtra stood on the brink of a “third wave”, Chief Minister Udhav Thackeray on Monday exhorted all political parties to immediately stop agitations and cancel political and social meetings to avoid crowding and prevent the spread of the contagion.
Mr. Thackeray’s appeal comes amid an incremental rise in COVID-19 cases and with the Ganesha festivities due to commence later this week.
“We can celebrate festivals later. Let us first prioritise the lives and health of our citizens. The situation can go out of hand in view of the spike in daily cases,” Mr. Thackeray said in a statement, noting the massive surge in cases in Kerala post-festivities.
Strong indications of some curbs
Despite Deputy Chief Minister Ajit Pawar stating last week that the Maha Vikas Aghadi (MVA) government did not plan to impose additional restrictions on movement during the Ganesh festival, there are strong indications that Mr. Thackeray may announce some curbs soon.
“Who would like to impose restrictions on festivals and religious programmes? But people’s lives are important…the upcoming festive days will be crucial and the onus is on political parties to ensure things do not go out of control. So, I appeal to all political parties including my Shiv Sena to cancel all social and political gatherings that draw large crowds,” said Mr. Thackeray.
Senior Congress leader and Relief and Rehabilitation Minister Vijay Wadettiwar said restrictions on large crowds were likely and that the Chief Minister would be announcing the decision in a day or two.
He, however, said there had been no discussions on imposing a night curfew as yet.
The Nationalist Congress Party (NCP), which is part of the tripartite MVA along with the Sena and the Congress, urged all political parties to take the Chief Minister’s appeal seriously and abide by pandemic norms.
“The Chief Minister has appealed to all parties to scrap their functions. The NCP is of the firm belief that all programmes that encourage crowding must be stopped and we have accordingly directed our leaders and activists to do so,” said NCP leader and Maharashtra Minister Nawab Malik.
Double standards: BJP
The opposition Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) hit out at the MVA leadership and the Chief Minister’s alleged “double standards”, claiming that while the public was being compelled to celebrate Ganesha festivities ‘online’, MVA leaders openly held political meets which saw large crowds.
“Why are these norms only imposed on the public? Why does the Chief Minister not restrain his colleagues Sanjay Raut [Sena MP and spokesperson] who recently held a big party meet or NCP leader Jitendra Awhad? The MVA’s decision of not allowing the public to celebrate the Ganpati festival smacks of Talibani tendencies,” said BJP leader and former Minister Ashish Shelar.