Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi urged people to continue appearing “in accordance with the Covid-19 protocols” and to vote during the final stage of the West Bengal state elections.
Modi and his Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) have come under fire for holding several rallies in West Bengal prior to the elections. Thousands were in attendance and did not adhere to social distancing guidelines.
Critics have accused the BJP of putting politics before public health. India is now facing a massive new wave of Covid-19 cases across the country and a nationwide lack of oxygen.
On April 22, the Indian Electoral Commission tightened restrictions on the remaining stages of the West Bengal Assembly elections, banning road shows, vehicle rallies and large public gatherings of more than 500 people after finding political parties and candidates against the Covid-19 – Guideline violated.
However, the political parties – including the BJP – held rallies throughout the week, although India continued to record more than 300,000 cases a day.
Thursday is the last election day in West Bengal. The polls opened around 7:00 a.m. local time (9:30 a.m. CET) and are expected to close at 6:30 p.m. local time (9:00 a.m. CET).
The states of southern Tamil Nadu and Kerala, west Bengal and Assam in the east and the union area of Puducherry went to the polls on March 27th. The vote took place in eight phases and ended on April 29th. All votes are to be counted on May 2, with the results being announced on the same day, despite the Indian Electoral Commission banning the Victory Procession.
On Thursday, the Election Commission also issued guidelines calling on all election officials and candidates to submit negative Covid-19 test reports or to have received both doses of the Covid-19 vaccine before May 2.