Long and tortuous: On West Bengal Assembly Elections

End of multi-phase Assembly polls is a matter of relief after the surge in COVID-19 cases

Free, fair and periodic elections are an essential feature of a democracy. Elections are the ultimate opportunity for the people to hold their elected representatives accountable. Election cycles are usually not disrupted, even in challenging situations, for this reason. Ironically, elections can also be easily manipulated into an easy escape route from accountability. This set of Assembly elections in the midst of a pandemic did not generate any meaningful debate on public health or accountability. By denying the crisis in action and messaging, political parties contributed to the current surge in infections. The BJP was particularly irresponsible organising huge rallies, with people violating the mandatory health protocol. The spike in infections from that is already beginning. Considering the unprecedented situation of the pandemic, these elections should have been a quick affair, with limited campaigning. What happened was the opposite. Massive rallies continued even after COVID-19 numbers began to grow exponentially. These Assembly elections would most likely be remembered for worsening a health crisis than for heralding political change. The nature of the results, to be announced on May 2, will likely pale before the magnitude of the unfolding crisis.

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