WB CEO calls all party meeting to ensure strict implementation of corona protocol during campaigning

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(Adding CPI-M's decision on campaigning) Kolkata, Apr 14 (PTI) West Bengal chief electoral officer (CEO) Aariz Aftab Wednesday called an all party meeting on April 16 following the Calcutta High Court direction to the CEO and all district magistrates in the state to ensure strict implementation of COVID-19 protocol during campaigning for the remaining four phases of the state election, an EC official said.

All political parties in the state have been asked to send only one representative each for the meeting which will discuss matters related to the campaigning for the last four phases of the poll, he said.

There will be discussions on the norms of social distancing and relevant COVID-19 protocol, the official added.

State Additional Director General of police (Law and Order) Jag Mohan and state health secretary N S Nigam will also be present in the meeting, he said.

The Calcutta High Court had on Tuesday directed that all health-related guidelines should be maintained in the strictest possible manner with regard to campaigning by political parties for the West Bengal assembly polls in view of the resurgence in COVID-19 cases.

Hearing two PILs in this regard, a division bench presided by Chief Justice T B N Radhakrishnan had ordered that all district magistrates will ensure that the guidelines laid down by the EC and CEO are strictly implemented in letter and spirit and if necessary, with police aid.

The court had said that it is in the public interest that the administration should ensure that all the COVID-19 guidelines are strictly adhered to by all concerned, including those engaged in election campaign activities.

Meanwhile, the CPI-M on Wednesday decided that no big rallies will be organised by it for campaigning for the remaining phases of the state election and emphasis would be laid on door-to-door campaigning and small group meetings.

CPI-M Politburo member Md Salim told reporters, 'We had seen the high turnouts in our meetings in all the phases of polling so far. With the sharp rise in Covid-19 we have decided not to hold any big rally to prevent any contamination. We will undertake door to doors and small group meetings with all Covid-19 measures in place'.

Campaigning for the fifth phase of polls ended on Wednesday, 72 hours before the voting on April 17.

Salim said both the Centre and state government should act responsibly in the present situation for public safety and not politicise the COVID-19 issue.

The senior CPI-M leader said the party will work to build more awareness among the general people about following basic preventive measures to stop the contagion.

'We will also be on the side of the affected people like last year and help them with relief measures,' he added.