NEW DELHI — Mounting death toll, acute shortage of oxygen, a woefully inadequate hospital and health infrastructure, long lines outside crematoriums and burial grounds.
While the entire world is watching and becoming aware of how ill-prepared, despite repeated warnings by experts, India was for the second wave of Covid 19 pandemic, many, especially critics of the Narendra Modi government, argue that the government was busy with politicking instead of ramping up the infrastructure to fight the war against the mystery disease. Why, one may ask, for a leader whose understanding of perception and its importance in electoral battles, was Narendra Modi and his government so cavalier in anticipating and dealing with the situation?
To understand the issue and seek answers, India Ahead News spoke to several important BJP leaders, including two ministers in the Narendra Modi government and, basically, got the following response: It isn’t going to hurt the party politically.
The two ministers and BJP party leaders spoke to India Ahead News on the condition of anonymity. The two ministers, though the choice of words was different, asserted that Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s personal image, carefully created and nurtured, over a period of time, was such that “opposition parties won’t be able to dent it.”
“The opposition is playing politics over dead bodies. The Prime Minister’s image is not going to be dented by any number of opposition attacks. Entire country knows he is the best person to deal with this problem. Everyone knows who is doing what?” one of the two ministers
But, when senior ministers and BJP functionaries make statements that are seen as making light of the scale of the tragedy, doesn’t it hurt the image?
“Yes, sometimes it builds the perception that we are not caring enough. But, whenever such statements are made by anyone, including our cabinet colleagues, they are immediately admonished,” said the second minister.
Incidentally, till the writing of this report, Union Railway Minister Piyush Goyal, who attracted a lot of ridicule and criticism for his State-governments-should-keep-demand-(for medical oxygen)-under-control remark, had not retracted his statement.
The opposition is playing politics over dead bodies. The Prime Minister’s image is not going to be dented by any number of opposition attacks.
“We are winning West Bengal and Assam”
Asked if Prime Minister Modi and Union Home Minister Amit Shah, who have been campaigning extensively in West Bengal, the state where dethroning incumbent Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee is being seen as top priority for the party, should have led the way in announcing a halt to their mega campaign rallies in view of rising Covid cases, a senior BJP leader replied in the negative.
“We are winning West Bengal as well as Assam. You wait and watch. Internally (within the BJP), we have had discussions on this and it was felt that there is no immediate cause of concern. Our workers have already been instructed to be careful and follow all Covid-related protocols. It doesn’t make sense to cancel any of our rallies,” the same senior party leader, who is also involved in the ongoing campaign, told India Ahead News.
But, does he think Congress leader Rahul Gandhi, who has announced a complete halt to all his campaigning, and Mamata Banerjee, who isn’t going to campaign as extensively as she was doing so far, have scored a major political point over the BJP?
“In politics, the only barometer of success is winning elections. Modi ji knows this. Nobody takes Rahul Gandhi seriously. As for Mamata didi, if she is so serious, why doesn’t she also put a complete end to her party’s campaign? Voters are with us,” said the BJP leader.
No, videos or photos of pyres on fire or gut-wrenching scenes at hospitals don’t impact public perception about BJP, the BJP leaders we spoke with said.
In politics, the only barometer of success is winning elections. Modi ji knows this.
Asked if the BJP, and the Prime Minister’s carefully cultivated image and perception have taken a hit due to the continued stream of videos and photographs showing the scale of human tragedy due to the seemingly uncontrollable second wave, the first minister replied in the negative.
“People will forget all this once the situation normalises. More importantly, there is no opposition to take advantage of this. Social media is entirely with us. There is no cause for worry,” he added. But, surely, as elected leaders, more empathy is expected from them?
What about those who are dying from lack of medical infrastructure? What about people who are asking why the government didn’t ramp up health-related infrastructure in the last over one year?
“The Prime Minister is regularly holding meetings. Public is with us. Why don’t you ask what state governments have done in the last one year?” is the curt response of the first minister.
And, finally. does the government have a plan to deal with the pandemic.
“We are doing the best. The Prime Minister is leading from the front.
But, people too have a responsibility to follow rules and ensure they remain secure. No amount of money will be enough if people don’t follow guidelines,” said the second minister.