(Eds: With more inputs) Chakulia/Hemtabad/Kaliaganj, Apr 19 (PTI) West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee on Monday urged the Election Commission to re-consider its decision to stick to the original poll schedule, as she stressed that wrapping up the last three phases of polls on a single day or at the most two days would check the spread of COVID-19 to some extent.
Indicating that the EC may have decided against clubbing the remaining phases at the behest of the BJP, Banerjee, who addressed three rallies during the day in Uttar Dinajpur district, requested the poll panel to prioritise public health.
'With folded hands, I request the EC to hold the next three phases of polls on a single day. If not one, conduct it in two days and save one day.
'Please don't take your decision based on what the BJP says. Please ensure that you protect public health by curtailing the poll schedule, even if it is by one day,' the TMC supremo said at her rally in Chakulia.
Banerjee, who had in the past, too, made similar appeals to the EC, claimed that the poll panel was ignoring her pleas as it seeks to 'satisfy the BJP, which is not in favour of truncating the election schedule'.
'You (EC) are stretching the electoral process forcefully to satisfy the BJP. As the prime minister (Narendra Modi) is slated to address meetings on April 23, you are sticking to the original schedule. You are not bothered about people's well being,' she alleged during her address in Hemtabad.
Iterating that the BJP was responsible for the spike in COVID-19 cases in Bengal, 'where the situation was largely under control', Banerjee said, 'Modi and Amit Shah brought in thousands of outsiders with them for poll campaigns. They checked into hotels and guest houses and left after contaminating those places.' 'The situation here, however, is not as alarming as in places like Delhi, UP or Gujarat. In Delhi, lockdown has been imposed. In UP, walls have been erected to hide bodies from view... In Bengal, we have to be alert,' she said.
The CM further said that she and other leaders of her party would not hold any rally in congested areas.
Banerjee lambasted the Narendra Modi government for 'not taking adequate measures over the past six months to avert vaccine crisis'.
The TMC boss, while addressing people in Kaliyaganj, justified her decision to skip the chief ministers video conference with Modi.
'I have attended 10 meetings convened by the PM on Covid-19. This time, I skipped the meeting. So what? Did anything fruitful come out of my earlier meetings with the PM? In the last meeting that I attended, I had urged him to help us provide vaccines free of cost to the people of the state.
We are yet to get his reply.' The CM said that Modi and Union Home Minister Amit Shah were busy 'making plans to capture Bengal, instead of chalking out measures to prevent the Covid-19 spread across the country'.
'Many safe houses built for COVID-19 patients have been booked by the EC for election purposes. The state has plans to take over Salt Lake Stadium, Netaji Indoor Stadium, and other stadiums in the districts and convert them into safe houses.' Calling the BJP a party of 'rioters and war mongers', she told people gathered at the rally, 'Don't allow them (saffron party leaders) to turn Bengal into Gujarat.' Referring to the incident of firing in Cooch Behar, Banerjee said, 'They conspire to kill people by opening fire on voters. Your vote will be the reply to their bullet.' Four persons died on April 10 in Sitalkuchi area of Cooch Behar when CISF personnel opened fire in 'self defence' allegedly after coming under attack from locals.
Earlier that day, an 18-year-old first-time voter was shot dead by miscreants.
The TMC supremo had, on several occasions in the past, claimed that central forces were working under the instructions of 'home ministry run by Amit Shah'. She had also said that the CAPF personnel were 'assaulting voters' in some places, asking them to vote for the BJP.
'If you (people) protest against the misdeeds of BJP, they (BJP leaders) hatch conspiracy to shoot and kill people, like they did in Sitalkuchi. Five Rajbanshi brothers were killed in two parts of Sitalkuchi on April 10.
'The BJP is trying to give communal twist to the incidents... Don't allow the BJP to create rift among Rajbanshis. All five victims were Rajbanshis irrespective of their religious identities,' she said.
Banerjee also pointed out that her government has given 'due recognition' to Rajbanshis, their language and cultural identity, declared holiday on the birth anniversary of luminary Panchanan Barma, set up a university and named it after him.
'This election will go on to show whether Bengal will remain a land of Swami Vivekananda, Ramakrishna Paramahansa, Rammohan Roy, Iswarchandra Vidyasagar, if their ideals and preachings will continue to guide people, or if the state will be ruled by rioters,' she said.
Banerjee, much like she did in her previous election meetings over the past one month, cautioned against attempts to 'omit names of people from voter list' by the BJP through NRC and CAA implementation.
In all three rallies, the TMC supremo, who has often been accused of practising politics of appeasement, chanted Chandi shlokas, and wished people well on the occasion of Basanti Puja, Annapurna Puja, Ramnavami and Ramadan. PTI SUS RMS RMS