Amidst an unprecedented surge in Covid-19 cases and a massive shortage of oxygen for critical patients, Prime Minister Narendra Modi yesterday cancelled his scheduled visit to West Bengal today to address assembly election campaign rallies.
"Tomorrow, will be chairing high-level meetings to review the prevailing COVID-19 situation. Due to that, I would not be going to West Bengal," PM Modi tweeted, effectively ending his campaign in Bengal, which will vote in three more rounds before the election results on May 2.
He was scheduled to address four rallies in West Bengal today.
Indian Home Minister Amit Shah also cut short his campaign yesterday, cancelling two of his three Bengal meetings to return to Delhi for a Covid meeting. According to the BJP, all its top leaders have called off the rest of their campaign.
This is the first time the Prime Minister has cancelled a campaign visit to Bengal, where rallies by him, other BJP leaders and Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee have been drawing huge crowds in the time of Covid. The optics have looked particularly bad for the ruling party at a time Covid cases have been rocketing. This morning, India reported a global high of 3.14 lakh cases in a day and over 2,000 deaths.
Even yesterday, top BJP leaders held public meetings and roadshows in Bengal. So did Mamata Banerjee, who has reduced the duration of her speeches but has not stopped campaigning as she fights for a third straight term against a strong challenge from the BJP.