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FIR against Bhupesh Baghel for ‘violating’ Covid protocols while campaigning in Noida

As per party officials, the CM was holding a door-to-door campaign along with Pankhuri Pathak, the Congress candidate from Noida constituency.

Written by Jignasa Sinha | New Delhi |
Updated: January 17, 2022 7:46:09 am
Chhattisgarh CM Bhupesh Baghel and Congress candidate Pankhuri Pathak speak to families in Noida. (Express photo by Gajendra Yadav)

Weeks ahead of Phase 1 of the Uttar Pradesh Assembly elections, Chhattisgarh Chief Minister Bhupesh Baghel held a door-to-door campaign in Noida’s Bahlopur district on Sunday to drum up support for the local Congress candidate. Hours later, Noida Police lodged an FIR against Baghel and others for allegedly violating Covid protocol.

The Election Commission has banned physical rallies and gatherings till January 22 in view of a spike in Covid cases. The event was brought to the notice of the district’s returning officer, following which the FIR was filed under IPC sections 269 (acts spreading disease), 270 (spread of disease), 188 (disobedience of public order) and relevant sections of the Epidemic Diseases Act at Sector 113 police station.

Baghel kickstarted the campaign for the Congress by visiting five districts in and around Noida — he first went to Bishanpur and Chaura Raghunathpur where he conducted a door-to-door campaign, met families at Barola and Sorkha villages in the afternoon, and conducted another door-to-door drive at Bahlopur. He also distributed pink wristbands to young girls, which had ‘Ladki Hoon Lad Sakti Hoon’ written on them.

Addressing a small rally at Bahlopur for an hour, along with Noida candidate Pankhuri Pathak, Baghel said: “Other parties only talk about caste or religion… Nobody except the Congress talks about the common people and their problems. Priyanka Gandhi ji and others believe in raising issues of women, farmers, people from backward communities. We have support from people on the ground…”

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Pathak added, “I am a woman and I want other women to exercise their rights and vote. I want the girls to feel empowered. We spoke to many families and we want them to tell us their issues. We’ll help them.”

On the FIR, she said, “The Chhattisgarh CM had come here to meet people. There were only 3-4 of us. Police should have taken precautions if they are so worried about the crowd… We are not scared of FIRs. The Congress will fight this election by fair means.”

Meanwhile, families in Bahlopur said they were “surprised” to see Baghel. Bobby Singh, a businessman from Haryana, said, “My mother and son met Baghel ji. He told us this was his first time here. He had tea at our house and asked us to vote for the Congress… We told him we have been facing issues because of Covid-induced restrictions. He said his party workers will help us…”

Rajinder Chauhan, a shopkeeper in the area, said, “The door-to-door campaign was short… Residents met Baghel ji and he gave a small speech… and interacted with a few families. My children also took his wristbands. We thanked him for visiting us. Many leaders don’t come here…”

According to officials, candidates contesting in the first phase will begin filing their nominations on Friday. The nominations can be filed till January 21, which will then be examined by the Election Commission three days later. The last date of withdrawal of nominations is January 27.

Gautam Buddh Nagar district, under which Noida falls, will go to polls on February 10 and the results will be declared on March 10.

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