Congress first family persists in sordid partisan politics
Politics in the time of the spread of COVID-19 can be as elusive as human relationships during a pandemic. Since the outbreak of the coronavirus in India, several ruling and opposition leaders realised the transient nature of political engagements when a crisis of such a magnitude confronts us.
Whether it is the Centre, state governments, communities, or individuals, everyone believes that petty squabbling is not in order now. With the disease afflicting almost 500 persons across India and the number of deaths inching closer to ten, the threat from COVID-19 is truly daunting.
Currently, the battle is to curb the virulent spread of the human virus through airport screening, expanded testing, travel curbs and lockdowns. Spontaneous response to Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s call to observe a “janata” curfew and subsequent willingness by large sections of the people to subject themselves to lockdown is a proof enough — that everyone is bracing up for the worst-case scenario.
But they are also filled with the belief that we shall overcome it — if we do what must be done at once. Even non-BJP chief ministers like Uddhav Thackeray, Naveen Patnaik, Amarinder Singh, Ashok Gehlot, K Chandrasekhar Rao, Y S Jaganmohan Reddy and, belatedly even Mamata Banerjee have dropped their political agenda and rallied to strengthen the Prime Minister’s hands.
They are undertaking stern measures in their respective states without questioning Modi’s leadership or actions. But what is baffling is the response of the top Congress leadership represented by Sonia Gandhi, her son Rahul and daughter Priyanka Gandhi Vadra.
Former finance minister P Chidambaram too is in two minds — whether to back the Modi government’s efforts or unleash his barrage of attack, though the coronavirus outbreak has forced investigative agencies —the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) and the Enforcement Directorate (ED) — to scale down their probes (against him and others) and suspend non-urgent interrogations till April 4.
It appears that the conclusion of the Congress first family, which is not echoed by many members of their party, is that the opportunity to corner the PM (that has been thrown up by the outbreak of COVID19) should not be allowed to pass.
So we have heard Rahul Gandhi almost going ballistic with his charge that the PM is absolutely “clueless” about the crisis and has not taken seriously his “warnings” about the impending disaster to the economy from the disease.
Unable to hide her dismay at the fall of their favourite — Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Kamal Nath, Priyanka Gandhi Vadra has taken to Twitter to taunt the PM, saying that if he has got free time after toppling an elected government, he should speak on coronavirus.
Sonia Gandhi thinks that she must write to the PM on some basic ideas to tackle the crisis. Much to their disappointment, Modi has spoken to the nation twice through his nationwide television address and through tweets, drawing an overwhelming response.
Drawing on his own political capital among the masses, Modi has sought to reach out to every citizen to understand the complexities of the COVID-19 challenge, almost pleading with everyone to observe isolation protocol and help in breaking the transmission cycle of the coronavirus.
Going by their response, most Indians appear to be wanting to trust Modi’s words and his government’s abilities and efforts to do the needful — detect the persons who have contracted the virus from abroad, trace their family contacts, and contain the spread of the disease by series of measures. Of course, the bigger challenge is coping up with the economic problems that COVID-19 is certain to leave behind — if and when it leaves our shores.
No one has yet to understand its implications. Modi is faulted by the Congress for not coming up with immediate announcements to fix the economy, apart from asking Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman to head a task force to assess the damage sector-wise.