With over 54,000 COVID-19 patients, 1,800 deaths, and still counting, Maharashtra is the epicentre of the pandemic in India. Mumbai, India’s financial capital, has seen an exodus of its workforce as the city’s health infrastructure creaks under the weight of the surging infections. Other cities in the state, such as Pune, Nashik, Aurangabad and Thane, have also reported a large number of cases and hotspots. The crisis facing Maharashtra is grave and its social and economic impact is, and will be, national, not confined to the state. This difficult time calls for everyone to come together and work with each other to defeat the virus. However, the political din that appears to be growing louder in the state suggests the opposite — it would appear that the main political actors are fishing for short-term gains, working at cross purposes. This is unfortunate.
Over the last few days, meetings between Governor Bhagat Singh Koshyari and NCP chief Sharad Pawar, and between Pawar and Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray, and statements from BJP and Congress leaders have triggered speculation about the stability of the government amid the coronavirus crisis. By all accounts, Governor Koshyari and CM Thackeray have had an uneasy relationship ever since the Maha Vikas Aghadi (MVA) government was formed in November last year in unedifying circumstances. Subsequently, Koshyari’s apparent reluctance to nominate Thackeray to the legislative council had sharpened uncertainties even as the pandemic was unfolding, which ended only after the Election Commission held elections to the council just before the deadline for the CM to get elected to the House ended. Now, Pawar’s meeting with the governor fuelled speculation that the NCP and Shiv Sena disagreed on important administrative decisions. Some BJP leaders have demanded President’s Rule citing rising infections while disgruntled sections in the MVA, especially in the Congress, have spoken out against Thackeray’s administrative capabilities and style of functioning. BJP leader and former CM Devendra Fadnavis further stirred the pot by claiming the Aghadi will soon implode. In the midst of all this, Rahul Gandhi said the Congress was neither running the government (in Maharashtra) nor was a key decision-maker in it. Gandhi’s description of his party’s role in Maharashtra, or rather his disavowal of its responsibility, presumably aimed at distancing the Congress from blame for the handling of the COVID-19 crisis, struck a jarring note.
Both the ruling coalition in Maharashtra and the Opposition need to focus on the pandemic and join hands to contain and overcome its impact. Too many lives and livelihoods have already been lost. This is the time for a politics that connects with the people, not one that plays upon rivalries and antagonisms between parties and leaders.
📣 The Indian Express is now on Telegram. Click here to join our channel (@indianexpress) and stay updated with the latest headlines