Examining if election rallies and Kumbh Mela were actually super-spreaders, as they have been made out to be.

The second Covid-19 wave sent the nation into deep crevices of misery and dejection. For the innumerable teary eyes, the countless desolate faces, the infinite gasps of worried breaths, and the thousands who couldn’t breathe to tell a tale, the nation bows in grief and anguish to express solidarity and belongingness. This time, the second wave shook the conscience, broke the resolution, and shattered the confidence of millions. The nation in this short span of time went through thousands of failure stories and a million successful ones. But, in all of this, anything that was worse than the crumbling health infrastructure, anything more depressing than the cremation snapshots, and anything more tyrannical than the vaccine and oxygen hoarders, was the politics of blame game played to shift the responsibility for the second wave. In order to understand the politics and the surrounding narratives, it is first important to go through the Covid timeline in India. Let’s traverse through the Covid timeline from March 2020 till now:

Source: https://prsindia.org/covid-19/cases/statewisecomparisonSource: https://prsindia.org/covid-19/cases/statewisecomparison

Tables 3 and 4. (Source: https://prsindia.org/covid-19/cases/statewisecomparison)

• March 2020-September 2020: There is a sharp incline in the number of new Covid cases every day from March to September with the number of daily new cases peaking in mid-September.

• October 2020- February 2021: There is a continuous decline in the number of new covid cases every day in the country. The numbers were less than 10000 new cases in mid-February.

• March 2021: There is a sudden increase in the number of covid cases with the number of new cases rising from close to 12286 new cases on 1st March to 72330 new cases on 31st Match

• April 2021- May 2021: Things go out of hand with the number of new cases rising from 81446 new cases on 1st April to 414188 new cases on 6th May followed by a gradual decline with each successive day.

Thus the second wave can be said to have started sometime in Mid March and peaking in May first week. This is an important timeline to remember while going through some of the narratives being spread in the blame game politics.

Let’s go through some of the most prevalent narratives disseminated:


If this theory is to be believed then the continuous downward trend at the end of October and the first week of November 2020, during the Bihar elections would not have been a living reality. Though people might argue on stricter norms for the conduction of rallies there can be no disagreement that most of the times such norms were more on paper than in reality. Zooming into the present second wave, it is important to do a comparative analysis of the poll-bound states and the non-poll-bound states for establishing the truth in this case. Let’s look at the tables (1 and 2) below for understanding the active cases variation in poll-bound states and non-poll-bound states during the early phase of the second wave from 1st March till 6th April (election finished in three states):

If we analyse the data for poll-bound and non-poll-bound states we clearly see that the percentage increase in the non-poll-bound states is way higher than the poll-bound states. Maharashtra which had 78212 active cases on 1st March went up to 452777 active cases by 6th April. On the other hand, Tamil Nadu which had the highest percentage change in poll-bound states from 1st March till 6th April, shows a jump from 4022 active cases to 23777 active cases. Moving to Bengal, which got a lot of attention for poll rallies. Bengal saw a jump from 3307 active cases to 11446 active cases which is less in comparison to Delhi which showed a jump from 1335 active cases to 14589 active cases with almost 1/5th of the population of West Bengal.

Though questions may be asked on the testing numbers which vary in each state but by the plain reading of the data, election rallies cannot be termed as the reason for the second wave in India. The non-poll-bound states show a higher percentage increase in the number of active Covid cases in the same duration The second wave had well and truly grappled the nation by April 6th and the poll bound states weren’t directly responsible for it.

To turn our attention to Bengal for the rest of the phases till 29th April let’s understand the table below:

Thus if we compare West Bengal, which was poll-bound, to non-poll-bound states like Maharashtra and Delhi we see an increase of almost the same proportion as the non-poll-bound state like Delhi. Most of the cases might be attributed to the migrants returning home after losing employment opportunities in other states as some states started lockdowns. Also, rallies in the fag-end of the election around 20 April and later were reduced dramatically in the state when almost all the parties refrained from holding rallies as the cases started going up. Hence, the whole narrative around election rallies was cooked up to completely shift the blame for the second wave. Though elections rallies and polling on election days cannot be totally absolved the entire blame shouldn’t be put on it to malign the institution and the electoral process.


There are numerous Twitter threads and social media posts from responsible politicians blaming the Kumbh congregation as the super spreader event in the second Covid wave. Though public gathering of anysort was unacceptable, let us again look at some relevant data to understand whether Kumbh was a super-spreader event or not. To have a clear understanding it is first important to go through the important Kumbh dates to analyse a timeline for the Covid cases accordingly. The important Kumbh dates were:

• Makar Sankranti 14 January 2021

• Mauni Amavasya 11 February 2021

• Basant Panchami 16 February 2021

• MaghPoornima 27 February 2021

• MahaShivratri 11 March 2021

• SomvatiAmamvasya 12 April 2021

• Baisakhi 14 April 2021

• Ram Navami 21 April 2021

Chaitra Purnima 27 April 2021

Now, let’s go through the number of cases in Uttarakhand on the above dates till 17th April when the top seers participating in the event mentioned that the event will only be symbolic from that day onwards. Also, let’s understand how the other states were doing at the same time in terms of the number of active cases:

Thus if we observe the the table (3 and 4) above it is amply clear that in the first four important dates or ‘Snans’ the number of Covid cases has continuously decreased in the state of Uttarakhand. While on the other hand, the number of Covid cases started rising in Maharashtra, Punjab, and Delhi from 16th February onwards. The jump in the number of active cases was almost more than three times in the state of Maharashtra and Punjab between 16th February and 11th March. The second Covid wave supposedly had already picked up in the country by Mid March. Even on 17th March, the Prime Minister in a meeting with Chief Ministers of different states warned them against the rising second Covid wave in the country. Even till 12th April when the number of active Covid cases in Delhi had reached 34341, Uttarakhand had 7323 active cases in the state. In this, it is to be kept in mind that the population of Delhi is close to 1.9 Crore while that of Uttarakhand is 1.01 Crore with additional tourists visiting the state because of Kumbh. It is highly foolish to assume that the super spreader event won’t affect the state in which the event is held but is responsible for the spread everywhere else. This is the level of IQ of people who had doubted the event for their personal goals and agendas. Hence, just by the pure observation of the data, it is amply clear that blaming Kumbh as a super-spreader event was with an agenda to malign the great intangible heritage of India. Also, it was primarily done to shift the blame for the second Covid wave.

This is Part 1 of the two-part series.

Sankalp Mishra is an engineer, lawyer, entrepreneur and an IIT-Kharagpur alumnus. The views expressed are personal.