Other States

Soaring political temperatures, rallies in West Bengal trigger spike in COVID-19 cases

Members of Trinamool Congress participating in a rally in Kolkata on Saturday over the Hathras rape incident.   | Photo Credit: Swapan Mahapatra

In this past week Kolkata has witnessed more than half a dozen political rallies by the ruling Trinamool Congress, the opposition Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), and Left and Congress.

Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee’s October 3 rally to protest over the Hathras rape and murder, where she raised concerns about rising COVID-19 infection and admitted that “community transmission has begun in the State”, was followed by two more rallies on October 7 and October 10 by other Trinamool leaders.

Not to be left behind,the BJP led a march to the State Secretariat on October 7 to protest the killing of political workers in the State. The day saw clashes between the police and BJP workers, which triggered another round of protests and a candlelight rally the next day.

The Left and Congress party, who claim to provide the “third alternative” in the State held joint rallies on October 3 and October 10 in Kolkata. Both days saw huge gatherings.

In almost all these mass mobilisations the norms of physical distancing were violated and hundreds could be seen without masks.

Data released from the State Health Department suggests that the State has recorded an average of 3,500 infections and 60 deaths daily over the last few days. Kolkata alone is consistently recording its highest ever daily infections.

While doctors and public health professionals are concerned about the impact of the Durga Puja celebrations on the COVID-19 cases, the heightened political activity is resulting in a spike weeks ahead of the festivities.

With six months to go for Assembly elections, political observers said “no political party is letting go of any issue or opportunity that can help them get some votes.”

Biswanath Chakraborty, political observer and head of the department of political science at Rabindra Bharati University said, “As a citizen I feel let down at such an approach when the pandemic is far from being over. All parties are ready to risk precious lives but not willing to let go any opportunity to derive political mileage.”

Prof. Chakraborty said that West Bengal is a “political society where politics pervades every aspect of public life”. He said that not many people from the city’s civil society will come forward to raise questions. Other districts in West Bengal have seen similar rallies and mass gatherings over the past few days and “there seems to be a normalisation of COVID-19 pandemic”, he said.

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Printable version | Dec 3, 2020 11:53:08 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/other-states/soaring-political-temperatures-rallies-in-west-bengal-trigger-spike-in-covid-19-cases/article32823682.ece

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