Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) is holding huge election campaigns for the municipal elections even as the country experiences a devastating second wave of COVID-19, the world’s worst surge since the pandemic began.
More than 200,000 people have died from COVID-19 in India, and at least 320,000 people are testing positive every day.
On Monday Apr. 26, as the country again set the world record for the most number of new cases in a day at 352,991 cases, the BJP president in the southern Telangana state held a political rally even after the state election commission called on politicians to adhere to state guidelines, including wearing masks and social distancing.
Photos from the event, which were tweeted by the BJP Telangana official account but later deleted, showed a massive crowd that did not adhere to the guidelines.
The next day, 10,122 new cases were reported in the state.
In March and early April, as hospitals were running out of beds and oxygen supplies, Modi and his party held massive rallies in West Bengal state, which experts say may have contributed to the rise in coronavirus cases.
Modi even shared his joy on Twitter saying, “I’ve never seen such huge crowds.” The prime minister also refused to cancel a Hindu religious festival that drew millions of people to the Ganges River banks, despite health experts’ pleas, the Washington Post reported.
Crematoriums are now so overwhelmed officials are burning bodies in parks and parking lots. On Thursday Apr. 29, the country set another global record for daily new virus cases, recording 379,257 new infections, while voting for the eighth and final phase of the West Bengal state elections began.
More than eight million people are expected to vote in at least 11,860 polling stations across the state, AP reported. Officials said social distancing measures will be in place.
Modi and his party are facing heavy criticism, with people calling for his resignation.
Some of the criticism is being taken down on social media after the government ordered Twitter, Facebook and Instagram to take down posts and block accounts that were critical of its handling of the pandemic.
These included posts from opposition politicians and tweets from ordinary people asking Modi to resign.
The government said that the posts “could incite panic, used images out of context, and could hinder its response to the pandemic,” the New York Times reported.