Kolkata: The Trinamool Congress and the BJP, on the occasion of the birth anniversary of Swami Vivekananda on Wednesday, vowed to combat the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic with renewed vigour, even as the saffron camp accused the ruling party of being responsible for the surge in fresh infections.

Days after advocating the suspension of political programmes and religious meetings for two months, TMC national general secretary and the Diamond Harbour MP Abhishek Banerjee said unique initiatives and strict measures would be taken in his constituency to control the spread of the disease, beginning with a thrust on sample examination.

“On Swami Vivekananda Ji’s birth anniversary, with renewed energy, Diamond Harbour PC aims to fight #COVID19 by implementing unique initiatives & strict measures. 30,000 COVID tests to be done today!” Banerjee tweeted in the morning.

With Gangasagar Mela underway and civic polls to four municipal corporations slated for January 22, the TMC national general secretary’s remarks on halting political programmes had raised eyebrows last week.

“Delighted to share that we have been able to pay appropriate tributes to Swamiji by conducting MORE THAN 50 THOUSAND #COVID19 TESTS in Diamond Harbour PC, in a SINGLE DAY. Additionally, in 7 days the positivity rate is the LOWEST among all LS constituencies in Bengal,” he tweeted in the evening.

“We promise to continue our efforts towards BRINGING DOWN THE POSITIVITY RATE further, which is CURRENTLY at 2.16%. We will leave NO STONE UNTURNED in our quest to make Diamond Harbour PC #COVID free. Your well-being will always be our top priority!” he wrote on the micro-blogging site.

The BJP West Bengal leadership mocked Banerjee’s initiatives and blamed the state government for the COVID surge in the state.

“The TMC government has sponsored the third wave in the state. He is now organising COVID tests and wants political programmes and religious gatherings to be halted. But the state government has a completely different stand on it. So no one knows what the official stand of the party is,” BJP spokesperson Samik Bhattacharya said.

Pointing out that preparations for civic polls and Gangasagar Mela had started long back, TMC MP Sougata Roy said Abhishek Banerjee’s views will surely be taken into consideration in future.

“Why are only civic polls in Bengal being singled out? What about the assembly elections in five states? Roy asked.

Meanwhile, the West Bengal BJP on Wednesday launched a new force, “Vivek Bahini”- named after Swami Vivekananda- comprising young party volunteers for reaching out to coronavirus patients and also people in distress.

So far, 20,000 people have enrolled in this force. Apart from common people, the voluntary team comprises cadres mostly from the BJP Yuva Morcha. We will also launch a helpline number on Makar Sankranti to reach out to people in distress,” BJP state general secretary Agnimitra Paul said.

The Vivek Bahini has been divided into two teams.

The first team will provide services to the COVID-19 patients such as arranging virtual appointments with doctors and helping them with daily supplies and medications.

The second team will help the people in distress who have lost their livelihood during the pandemic, she said.

The CPI (M)-led Left Front mocked the BJP for copying the idea of “Red Volunteers” to reach out to the masses.

“The BJP is good at copying everything. Today, they have launched a new force, a carbon copy of Red Volunteers. It only proves what the Left thinks or does today other parties like the BJP and the TMC follow it the next day,” CPI(M) central committee member Sujan Chakraborty said.

Red Volunteers brigade — a group of Left activists in their 20’s had earned accolades for their humanitarian services amid the COVID-19 pandemic-induced lockdown.

The volunteers conducted sanitization drives, provided masks in marketplaces, and ensured that telemedicine was provided to people by different organisations.

There are around 1.5 lakh Red Volunteers in the state, out of which 25,000 serve in Kolkata.

Earlier in the day, West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee went to the ancestral residence of Swami Vivekananda at Simla Street in north Kolkata and paid floral tributes to the spiritual leader and reformer, whose birthday is celebrated as the National Youth Day. PTI PNT MM

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