If the management of Covid-19 virus spread and the lockdown is a benchmark for assessing the governance efficiency, some BJP Chief Ministers seems to have turned the crisis into an opportunity not just for weakening their rivals inside and outside the party, but also consolidated their positions earning more political capital. But a few have failed despite having rich experience and strong political backing.
A number of chief ministers went much ahead of grandiloquent gestures and managed to cushion the population to some extent. While Chief Ministers like B S Yeddyurappa (Karnataka), Yogi Adityanath (Uttar Pradesh), Jai Ram Thakur (Himachal Pradesh) and Biplab Kumar Deb (Tripura) have earned kudos for their handling of the crisis, high profile leaders like Shivraj Singh Chouhan, a fourth-term Chief Minister, is still struggling to bring the situation under control. Although not experienced as Chouhan, Vijay Rupani in Gujarat has also not been able to claim any success in containing the Covid-19 virus outbreak nor in handling the migrant issue. Even in Bihar, where the BJP shares power with the JD-U, things have not come under control yet and the situation looks grim as more and migrant workers are returning to the state.
Party insiders say its leadership has already conveyed their appreciation to Chief Ministers of Assam Sabanand Sonowal — earnestly supported by well-accomplished Himanta Biswa Sarma who heads the crucial finance and health portfolios — Pramod Sawant (Goa), Manohar Lal Khattar (Haryana), Trivendra Singh Rawat (Uttarakhand) and Pema Khandu for their “comprehensive involvement” in handling the situation in the state. Their hands-on approach and quick response in not allowing the situation to go out of control, have strengthened their positions and has the potential to change the power equations in the party.
To be sure, the role of the chief ministers will be more significant in the coming days also as the centre wants the states to take complete control over containing the virus spread and lockdown issues as it would have to focus on the economy.
In fact, the pandemic has helped some of them to consolidate their statures.
Just before the corona outbreak in the country, Yeddyurappa was having a tough time with the state BJP leaders as reports suggested some of the discontented leaders met secretly to demand for change in his style of functioning. But, despite Karnataka being the state that registered India’s first Covid-19 death, Yeddyurappa seemed to have blended his experience with innovative technology to manage the pandemic to be hailed as a model for other states to follow. In the first week itself, he took control of the situation, held various rounds of discussions with his bureaucrats to evolve a strategy and reigned in those ambitious leaders in his party sidelining them completely. He used the virus crisis to improve his image as a statesman also. His strict warnings against Muslims being targeted for the virus spread post the Tablighi incident and his public thanking to the Church-run institutions for their contribution in the fight against the pandemic have earned him appreciation from different quarters.
Another Chief Minister who silenced his critics is Yogi. Sources said he had surprised even the bureaucracy with his total involvement and guidance in Uttar Pradesh’s battle against Coronavirus. Yogi personally monitors every aspect of the state’s battle against the pandemic and holds daily meetings with district authorities, ministers and senior officials to take stock of the situation.
As the crisis over the returning migrants started overshadowing his government’s pandemic management, Adityanth stunned everyone with the announcement that any states seeking to employ migrant workers from Uttar Pradesh would have to take permission from the state government in future. The announcement – of which feasibility and practicality still not clear – as well as his government’s proactive role in sending buses for bringing back the workers to the state, seem to have done what it was meant for; earning confidence among the people at the ground level.
Delhi confidential: Address Focus
Himachal Pradesh Chief Minister Thakur earned applause from Prime Minister Narendra Modi in his last video conference with the Chief Ministers for the state’s effective implementation of a programme to screen the entire population of the state for any influenza-like illness. The centre also has appreciated Thakur’s initiatives in successfully bringing the pharma hub in the state alive despite being marked as a red zone to produce Hydroxychloroquine (HCQ) for domestic use as well as for export.
Assam has so far managed the situation, helping both Sonowal and Sarma to tide over the crisis over the intense protests against changes in the citizenship laws. But the crisis is not yet over with the border districts of Assam reporting more cases.
In Tripura, Biplab Kumar Deb has put his image as a leader who makes irresponsible and controversial remarks behind, and earned the stature of a working chief minister during the crisis. In April last week, the state declared itself as corona-free but the virus outbreak in a BSF unit at the border has brought the state back into the limelight again. Khattar, with his regular press conferences and statements, has indicated that he is in charge in Haryana where he has been facing internal squabble and power struggles among senior party leaders. Rawat too has managed to silence those who were seeking a change of guard in the state.