Updated: May 23, 2021 8:50:32 am
At a recent function to discuss positivity, RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat spoke of the need for collective action rather than individual leadership. While some read it as criticism of Narendra Modi’s unilateral style, seasoned Sangh observers see it as a nuanced appeal to all BJP leaders, including CMs, to take decisions through consensus. By referring to RSS founder K B Hedgewar’s heroic role during the plague epidemic, Bhagwat hinted that the BJP had been found inadequate in public service during the pandemic — a point also made by RSS Delhi state executive member Rajiv Tuli, who questioned the absence of Delhi BJP leaders in the Capital when cases surged. Since then BJP president J P Nadda has directed the cadres to stir out. Bhagwat extensively quoted philanthropist Azim Premji, who had addressed the RSS gathering a few days earlier, and appealed for a scientific approach in tackling Covid-19, a reference perhaps to cures floated in the name of Hindutva. Significantly, Assembly polls are due next year in Uttar Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Goa and Punjab, and the BJP as of now is on the back foot.
Till the pandemic it was assumed that scientific pronouncements were backed with proven data. No longer. First we were told BCG vaccines provided immunity against the virus, then hydroxychloroquine was dubbed the wonder cure. A de-worming medicine ivermectin is routinely prescribed, and plasma with antibodies, once touted as an all-encompassing cure, is no longer considered an effective intervention. Remdesivir, another wonder cure, has been negated by the ICMR. One school of doctors warns against chest scans because of high radiation doses, another prescribes scans even to determine a recovered patient’s progress. With many medical specialists these days in love with TV cameras, the aam janata, including sadhvis and gurus, assume that they too are at liberty to propound their weird theories. Which emboldens me to mention my own thesis on one of the reasons for the sudden spike in cases in April in Delhi in the middle class. Many seem to have got infected after visiting a health centre for vaccination. Numerous cases could be avoided if a safer environment was created at these centres. Early advice to involve the private sector in the drive was ignored.
Stalin shows way
Tamil Nadu’s new CM M K Stalin set an example which needs to be emulated by all politicians, particularly those in the North who even in the face of a deadly Covid-19 spike are concerned with scoring brownie points and have a partisan and competitive approach in relief work. Stalin announced that for the next three months there was to be no politics in the DMK, the sole goal being to combat the pandemic by working with all parties. Representatives of all parties have been included in committees set up in each of Tamil Nadu’s 32 districts with local officials heading the all-party bodies.
Haste and waste
Comparisons with the Roman emperor Nero have been made by Narendra Modi’s detractors for the government’s refusal to abandon its grandiose plans during the pandemic for restructuring the Central Vista, with a reported budget of Rs 20,000 crore. The government argues that only two projects, the new Parliament building and the beautification and expansion of the lawns and walkways on either side of Rajpath, costing Rs 862 crore and Rs 489 crore respectively, are to be completed in the coming year. None of the other ambitious schemes, such as breaking down and re-building the National Museum, the IGNCA, the PM’s residence and innumerable government office buildings, has yet been formally approved. The first two projects are reportedly irreversible since the contracts were already awarded and work had begun. The reason preferred for the haste is questionable. The new Parliament building is to be completed by the 75th anniversary of India’s Independence in 2022 and the beautification project before Republic Day.
The Covid-19 wave has given the Congress cover for avoiding soul searching for its dismal performance in the recent polls. True, a five-member fact-finding team has been formed, but it inspires little confidence. Chairperson Ashok Chavan, defeated in 2019; Salman Khurshid, a perennial loser; Jothimani, a Rahul loyalist and relative newcomer, are on the panel. The inclusion of Manish Tewari, a G-23 member, is seen as a move to co-opt rebels. At the CWC meet, dissidents made clear that any talks for party polls could be deferred for three months as health crisis was the priority.
This column first appeared in the print edition on May 23, 2021.
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