Election Commission (EC) on April 22 banned roadshows, vehicle rallies & public meetings of more than 500 people in West Bengal. EC noted that political parties & candidates were “still not adhering to the prescribed safety norms” during campaigning. Permissions already given for such events stood withdrawn, the Commission said. The directive came hours after Calcutta High Court censured the EC for not doing enough to ensure that political parties were following appropriate Covid-19 protocols amid the devastating second wave of infections. West Bengal reported a record 11,948 new cases of Covid-19 infection in the 24 hours up to April 22 evening. The active caseload in the state is now 68,798. The order noted the Commission was “anguished” that candidates & parties were refusing to follow Covid-19 protocols, making it difficult for the state & district election machinery to enforce the poll body’s directions properly. Soon after the EC order, Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee cancelled all her scheduled meetings. Earlier in the day, Prime Minister Narendra Modi had cancelled all his public meetings in Bengal on April 23. Sixth phase of voting in the state took place on April 22. Two more phases are scheduled for April 26 and April 29. Votes will be counted on May 2.
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