Kolkata (West Bengal) [India], April 16 (ANI): Trinamool Congress (TMC) MP Derek O'Brien on Friday criticised the Election Commission's decision to curtail campaign timings for the remaining phases of West Bengal assembly polls, saying it will expose people to COVID-19 and destroy the state.
Speaking at a press conference, O'Brien said: "Today, the umpire has said no campaigning from 7 pm to 10 am. This is very suitable to those living in Lutyens' bungalows in Delhi. They have a nice breakfast in Delhi, fly down to Kolkata, do some meetings in heat and they will go back. So, this will expose people to COVID-19 but it will meet one of their prime objectives. It will destroy more of Bengal and kill more people from Bengal.""Our stand has been very clear. Hold safety of the citizens first, politics later. That is why, today, (TMC leaders) Subrata Bakshi and Partha Chatterjee went to the EC. Before that we had made the request, we want all three phases to be clubbed into one phase. But the umpire has said no. So we will listen to the umpire," he also said.
Lashing out at Amit Shah, the TMC leader said that the Union Home Minister does not stand for "Home Minister" anymore.
"Let me also challenge the Home Minister like I challenged him in the Parliament and said he would not be able to make the CAA rules. Let me challenge him, don't play mindgames with West Bengal. You are three per cent behind the TMC and in the Lok Sabha elections, you are more than double that percentage behind TMC," he further said, while exuding confidence that Mamata Banerjee will be sworn in as the Chief Minister in May.
Meanwhile, TMC leader Sukhendu Sekhar Roy said: "We knew our suggestions would not be accepted while the EC has readily accepted the words of BJP and its ally Congress."Amid a record spike in COVID-19 cases in the country, the Election Commission has decided to curtail the timings of campaigns for the remaining phases and extended the silence period to 72 hours for each of the phases.
In its order, the EC said: "No rallies, public meetings, street plays, nukkad sabhas, shall be allowed on any day during the days of campaign between 7 pm and 10 am wef 7 pm of 16.4.2021.""Silence period for rallies, public meetings, street plays, nukkad sabha, bike rallies or any gathering for campaigning purposes shall be extended to 72 hours before the end of the poll for Phase 6, Phase 7 and Phase 8 in the state of West Bengal," it added.
The fifth phase of the elections will be held on Saturday. A total of 45 constituencies across six districts - Jalpaiguri, Kalimpong, Darjeeling, Nadia, North 24 Parganas and Purba Bardhaman will be included in the fifth phase.
As many as 319 candidates, including 39 women, are in the fray in this phase of the West Bengal assembly elections. Several Indo-Tibetan Border Police (ITBP) troops have been deployed in the participating constituencies.
The first four phases were held on March 27, April 1, April 6 and April 10 respectively. The counting of votes will take place on May 2. (ANI)