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BJP cancels UP panchayat poll plan amid Covid surge, won’t hold ward-level public meetings

Four-phase panchayat polls in UP begin Thursday. India is currently experiencing a Covid wave that has seen mounting case tallies, and situation is grim in UP as well. 

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New Delhi: The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in Uttar Pradesh has cancelled its plan to conduct ward-wise public meetings ahead of the panchayat elections in light of the soaring Covid-19 cases in the state. 

The four-phase panchayat elections in the state will begin Thursday and end on 29 April.

India is currently experiencing a Covid wave that has seen mounting case tallies around the country. In Uttar Pradesh, Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath tested positive for Covid-19 Wednesday as did former CM and Samajwadi Party chief Akhilesh Yadav. On Wednesday, UP recorded the highest single-day spike of 20,510 coronavirus cases, with 67 deaths. 

According to a senior BJP leader, the party had decided to hold a meeting in each ward, to be addressed by local MLAs, MPs, ministers and senior BJP leaders. 

Speaking to ThePrint, BJP MP Raj Kumar Chahar confirmed the party’s decision to cancel the plan. “Looking at the Covid-19 cases, the party leadership decided not to go ahead with its previous plan of holding big meetings at the ward level. One such meeting for every ward was earlier scheduled to be addressed by MLAs, MPs, ministers and senior BJP leaders for the panchayat elections.” 

However, he added that BJP candidates will go door-to-door to campaign while following all social distancing norms. “Candidates have been told to take all precautions and follow all social distancing norms while campaigning, which has now been curtailed to door-to-door and small meetings with no more than five people,” he said. 

Meanwhile, another BJP MP, Kaushal Kishore, has appealed to the state and central election commissions to postpone the panchayat elections in Lucknow. 

“My appeal to the Election Commission is that Covid is out of control in Lucknow. Many thousands of families in Lucknow are badly affected due to Covid-19. Corpses are piled up on the ghats. Election is necessary but it is necessary to save people’s lives,” tweeted Kishore, who is the MP for Mohanlalganj in Lucknow district. 


Also Read: Miss India runner-up, former MPs — UP panchayat polls grab eyeballs with bigshot candidates


‘Semi-finals’

The four-phase UP panchayat elections are being organised for four levels of posts — gram panchayat, gram pradhan, block panchayat and zila panchayat. The results are scheduled to be declared on 2 May.

This is the first time that all the major political parties are backing candidates for the panchayat elections in Uttar Pradesh, and many are seeing it as a preparatory election for the 2022 assembly polls. 

For the BJP, the ruling party in the state, the election courts added importance because it faced backlash over the farm laws in western Uttar Pradesh. 

The BJP won 312 of UP’s 403 seats in the 2017 UP Assembly election, followed by the Samajwadi Party with 47 seats and the Bahujan Samaj Party with 19 seats.

The party had earlier organised chaupals in 50,000 villages of the state and was reaching out to voters at the booth level for the panchayat elections.

“The panchayat elections are being seen as the semifinals before the assembly polls next year. We are quite prepared and are confident of doing well,” said a senior BJP leader. “However, with the Covid situation deteriorating, we are scaling down our campaigning.” 

(Edited by Sunanda Ranjan)


Also Read: UP panchayat polls a litmus test for BSP, experts say Mayawati must come out of isolation first


 

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