The Election Commission of India (ECI) banned public rallies, roadshows and bike or cycle rallies in poll-bound West Bengal today evening in view of the second wave of the Covid-19 pandemic.
Issuing an order, the ECI invoked its plenary powers under Article 324 to prohibit roadshows, pad yatras, and cycle/bike/vehicle rallies effective immediately. The orders will come into effect from 7 pm today.
All previous orders for rallies and roadshows stand cancelled and only meetings that are attended by not over 500 people, will be allowed, the Election Commission stated.
The ECI has also restricted the limit of persons at any public meeting to 500 for the West Bengal assembly polls. Such public meetings will be allowed as per the availability of adequate space with social distancing norms and adherence to Covid-19 guidelines, the ECI said.
The order said the commission has noted “with anguish” that many political parties and candidates are still not adhering to the prescribed safety norms during public gatherings.
Earlier on Wednesday, the ECI had turned down appeals from TMC leader Derek O’Brien and Congress’s Adir Choudhury to club together the remaining three phases of polls.
In its order, it said that it has already issued safety guidelines for Covid-19, cut down on daily campaign hours and extended the “period of silence” — stopping of the campaign before polls — from 48 to 72 to 72 hours.
Voting for the two remaining phases of the West Bengal assembly polls will be held on 26 and 29 April. The counting of votes will take place on 2 May.
Meanwhile, West Bengal on Thursday registered its highest single-day spike of 11,948 new Covid-19 cases, the health department said in a bulletin.
The state also reported 56 fresh fatalities in a span of 24 hours.