India, election, Covid and PM


It is a strange heading for an article, however, all these are interrelated matters which recently happened in India.  All elections, central and states, have their own significance and the recent state elections are no exception.  These election results are bad news for India and add problems for the already bewildered Prime Minister Modi. This article is critical of Mr. Modi as the “buck has to stop at his desk”.  I should emphasize that, in spite of all the missteps by Mr. Modi, he is one of the best Prime Ministers India has had to date.  He is the hardest working PM and that has become his main problem as he attempts to do everything himself and does not delegate much to anyone.  His achievements, both on the domestic and foreign fronts, are highly commendable. Contrary to dire predictions, Mr. Modi and BJP will do very well in the next Parliament elections as they did in 2019 after the bad performance in the state elections in Bengal, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Gujarat.

Until early April, India and Mr. Modi were flying high in the international political arena and the fight against Covid Pandemic.  For the first time in world history, heads of four countries, USA, India, Australia and Japan wrote a joint Op-Ed in the Washington Post.  Mr. Biden and a number of countries hailed India’s contribution towards the global fight against Covid Pandemic and for providing medicines and vaccines to a number of countries including the U.S.  Suddenly, the Covid started creating havoc in India.  There are daily articles in the world news media highlighting the deaths and inadequate response to Covid’s victims.  The tone is highly anti-India and Mr. Modi.   His status in India and the world has suffered significantly.  In the heat of the state elections, the central government ignored the warnings.  In its November 2020 Report, the Parliament’s Health Committee warned of serious oxygen shortage and in March 2021, the Indian researchers warned about the second and more serious Corona wave.  The states, following the central government, also started loosening up precautions against the virus.  The Kumbh festival was allowed and religious functions, large political rallies and marriage and other parties were being held without any precautionary measures. Masks and social distancing started disappearing.  The state and federal governments could have been ready for the second wave, but they ignored their responsibilities.

Now coming to the state elections, the results are bad news for Congress, BJP and India.  First, the Congress Party, which champions secularism and accuses BJP of being a communalist party, had no hesitation in aligning with the Muslim extremists.  It even aligned with the Muslim League, the party responsible for India’s partition and killing of millions of Hindus and Sikhs.  Although the Congress Party criticizes BJP’s Hindutva, it has no qualms about aligning with Shiv Sena, which follows Hindutva more than BJP does.  In spite of all these acrobatic actions, the Congress Party lost Assam and Puducherry and won no seat in Bengal.  In Tamilnadu, the Congress Party won only 20 seats out of 234 seats.  Puducherry, a Southern State, is a big plus for BJP.

In Bengal, BJP put a lot of efforts and only won 77 seats as opposed to 213 seats won by TMC.  BJP was boasting of winning a two third majority.  In 2016, BJP had won only 3 seats.  However, its vote share in 2021 has come down to about 38.0% as compared to over 40% in the 2019 Parliamentary elections.  TMC won 213 as opposed to 211 seats in 2016.  CPM, which had ruled Bengal for decades, won only one seat as compared to 76 in 2016. The results indicate that all the anti-BJP voters voted for TMC. In Kerala, BJP lost its sole seat and even its highly acclaimed candidate Mr. Sreedharan, the “Metro Man” lost.  In Tamilnadu, BJP could win only three seats. These results are not encouraging for BJP.

As usual, the opposition parties were alleging that the Election Commission was crumbling under the BJP’s pressure. If that was the case, why did BJP fare so badly, in three states the largest ones among the five states where elections were held? The EC has been very independent and has been conducting elections on huge scales very well in spite of the hooliganism and threats from the political parties.

There were three big missteps by the central government which had added to the miseries of the poor people.  The first was demonetization which resulted in unemployment and slowdown of the economy.  The second was the national lockdown with a very short notice and without any preparation for moving the migrant workers to their hometowns.  The third misstep, as described above, was the total disregard of warnings and lack of preparedness for the second wave.  It is hard to predict what the victims of these three missteps, mostly poors, would do in the next parliament elections.

To make things worse for India, if the Congress Party does not change its leadership, it could lose badly in the next parliament elections. That means local satraps could win the majority and form a “Khichdi” government which would not only slow down India’s economy and standing in the world, it could create havoc.  China, which has recently occupied a big chunk of Indian territory, could snatch more land and add to the economic and political troubles of India.  Pakistan will be sure to take advantage of Chinese actions. I hope that the Congress leaders would take bold steps to get rid of both Gandhis; bring fresh leadership; and revive itself as a national party.

As usual, Mr. Modi, who does not give up, may decide to get better advisors and put the country back on a solid track.  I also hope that the opposition parties will behave responsibly.  It will be highly beneficial if there are roundtable free and frank discussions, without sermons and speeches, among the representatives of all political parties, labor and social leaders, bureaucrats and academicians to discuss the national issues and agree upon a future modus operandi and a code of public conduct for the sake of the nation and future generations.

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Disclaimer

Views expressed above are the author’s own.



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