CPI(M) stalwart Ashok Bhattacharya tests positive for COVID

Published : June 17, 2020 20:26 IST

Ashok Bhattacharya of the CPI(M). Photo: Ashoke Chakrabarty

Veteran Communist Party of India (Marxist) leader and legislator from north Bengal’s Siliguri constituency Ashok Bhattacharya was hospitalised on the night of June 16 after he tested positive for COVID-19. Seventy-one year old Bhattacharya, who is the former Mayor of Siliguri and at present the chairman of the Board of Administrators of the Siliguri Municpal Corporation, was feeling unwell for the past several days before he got himself tested for coronavirus.

The CPI(M)’s Darjeeling district secretary Jibesh Sarkar told Frontline that Bhattacharya’s condition was stable. There have already been 222 COVID cases and four deaths due to coronavirus in Darjeeling district, within which Siliguri falls. Bhattacharya is the first high-profile political figure in the region to have tested positive. He is not only one of the most popular political leaders in north Bengal, but also a very canny strategist, who continues to remain one of the few CPI(M) stalwarts in Bengal who have successfully retained their political positions in spite of overwhelming odds.

During the rule of the CPI(M)-led Left Front, Bhattacharya was the Minister for Urban Development and Municipal Affairs for over 15 years, and one of the tallest political figures from north Bengal. Even after the Left Front’s humiliating defeat at the hands of Mamata Banerjee’s Trinamool Congress in 2011, Bhattacharya was one of the few party stalwarts to bounce back and become Mayor of Siliguri in 2015 and then win in the 2016 Assembly election from his old seat.

Bhattacharya has not been the only important politician to have tested positive for COVID-19 in the State. On May 28, Minister for Fire and Emergency Services Sujit Bose had to be hospitalised with coronavirus infection. On June 16, Trinamool Congress heavyweight and Chief Whip in the State Assembly Nirmal Ghosh also tested positive.

As of June 17, the total number of COVID cases in the State was 12,300, including 5,136 active cases. The total number of deaths due to COVID-19 was 517 (11 deaths in the last 24 hours); of them around 70.8 per cent had comorbidities. The rate of recovery stood at 53.11 per cent.

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