The Election Commission on Thursday dismissed speculation that the last three phases of assembly polls in West Bengal could be clubbed in view of the surge in coronavirus cases in the country.
Since this morning, there has been speculation in the media that the last three phases of the assembly elections on April 22, 26 and 29 could be clubbed into a single phase.
"(There is) no such plan of clubbing phases," an EC spokesperson in response to queries.
There are suggestions that some political parties may raise the issue at an all-party meeting called by the chief electoral officer of West Bengal on Friday.
The meeting has been called to ensure that COVID-19 guidelines issued by the EC are adhered to by political leaders during campaigning.
Amid the rising number of coronavirus cases, the EC had on April 9 flagged instances of star campaigners and leaders campaigning without masks and warned that it will not hesitate in banning events like rallies in case the COVID-19 guidelines issued by it last year are not followed.
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 Communist Party of India-Marxist 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".
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.
The high-decibel campaigning for the fifth of the eight phases of the ongoing West Bengal assembly elections concluded at 6 pm on Wednesday as the second wave of the coronavirus pandemic continued to rage on.
Leaders of the political parties took part in the high-stakes polls across the state, leaving no stone unturned to woo the voters of the state.
The fifth phase of polling will be held on Saturday.
India on Thursday reported its highest-ever single-day spike in COVID-19 with over 2 lakh cases, according to the Union Health Ministry.
With 2,00,739 new COVID-19 cases in the last 24 hours, the country's total number of cases now stands at 1,40,74,564, including 14,71,877 active cases.