Poll campaigns hit as cyclone Fani advances to Bengal

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Kolkata, May 3 (IANS) Approaching severe cyclonic storm has thrown the election campaigns haywire in West Bengal with political parties either cancelling or defering their programmes, focusing more on how to provide relief materials in areas where the cyclone may wreak havoc.

The storm is likely to enter the state with a wind speed of 90-100 kmph gusting to 115 kmph by Friday midnight or early Saturday, an official said here.

Public meetings to be addressed by Prime Minister Narendra Modi and BJP President Amit Shah have been postponed by a day.

While Modi’s public meetings in Tamlik and Jhargram on May 5 have been pushed back to May 6, Shah’s rallies in Ghatal and Bishnupur on May 6 have been rescheduled to May 7, BJP National General Secretary Kailash Vijayvargiya told reporters at the state BJP headquarters here.

Chief Minister and Trinamool Congress supremo Mamata Banerjee announced that her party has cancelled all political programmes and electoral campaigns for the next 48 hours.

“I urge people to stay alert and not panic,” said Banerjee, who was in West Midnapore district’s Kharagpur for a pre-scheduled party event.

BJP state President and its Midnapore Lok Sabha candidate Dilip Ghosh on Friday postponed his Kashiary campaign programme and also deferred a pre-planned campaign at Dantan, scheduled on Saturday.

“During morning walk, I campaigned a bit on Friday but it has been decided that senior leaders across districts will monitor the situation and be ready to provide relief to people living in the possible affected areas. Priority is to address the storm first,” he told IANS over phone.

In a letter to the state government, the saffron party said it has formed control rooms and help centres in eight Bengal districts including North and South 24 Parganas, East and West Midnapore, Jhargram, Howrah, Hoogly and Kolkata that might bear the brunt of the cyclonic storm.

The extremely severe cyclonic storm Fani, now situated at about 150 km southwest of Kolkata, has already triggered intense rainfall and winds in West Bengal destroying 50 houses in East Midnapore district.

Senior Congress leader Amitava Chakraborty said many planned campaigns in coastal areas, particularly at Kakdwip in Mathurapur Lok Sabha constituency have been deferred.

Similarly, CPI M) politburo member Brinda Karat’s public meeting at Kolkata’s Dhapa and Belgachia and party’s Raiganj MP Md. Salim’s campaign programme at 8-30 pm on the same day at Kolkata port area have been cancelled.

Poll campaigns across parties have been rescheduled in Basirhat, Jaynagar, Diamond Harbour, Medinipur, Ghatal, Howrah, Hooghly, Kanthi, Tamluk Lok Sabha constituency which are either adjacent to Odisha or close to the sea.

–IANS

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