As the PM Reiterated 'What Bengal Thinks Today, India Does Tomorrow'
Covid and China
The second wave of Covid19 began on February 10 when India reported 11000 new cases. In the next fifty days, the daily average was 22,000 cases. In the following ten days the daily average touched 89,800. We are now adding over 400,000 a day.
India has never been engulfed by a crisis of this order. We are woefully short of hospital beds, oxygen, Remdesivir and Toclizumab, vaccines, ambulances and sadly even space in our crematoria. The growth and spread are expected to scale to almost a million a day.
In two months, India has become the worlds basket case. Yet on January 28 this year, speaking to the WEF fest at Davos, Prime Minister Narendra Modi showed a blissful and disturbing ignorance of the perfect storm looming. The committee of scientists monitoring the virus warned the PMO of the gathering storm. He was not interested. He was crowing about his perceived “achievement” of beating back the much-mutated Chinese virus. He was so wrong and the country is paying a huge price for it. There is no Modi image of competence left.
The elections to the four states and Pondicherry where he was focused on have been his undoing. He began campaigning on February 5 and 7 in Assam and Bengal. After that he addressed twenty more rallies in Bengal and six more in Assam. He also addressed ten rallies in Tamil Nadu, three in Kerala and one in Pondicherry, in all around forty giant rallies crisscrossing across in IAF’s Boeings.
I wouldn’t even hazard the true cost to the exchequer, but I have heard it said that the PM himself is liable to a charge of Rs.6 per air kms. Other costs are borne by the PMO. But the cost is not important. The time spent on huckstering is important. He lost almost a month campaigning instead of managing the engulfing crisis. I have always had a low opinion of his intellect but even he could have surmised the risks posed to the nation by the renewed pandemic.
Clearly, he factored winning Bengal was more important and worth the cost. Modi himself cheerfully paraphrased Gopal Krishna Gokhale said almost a hundred years ago “what Bengal thinks today, India thinks tomorrow”!
Bengal unambiguously has expressed what it is thinking. It has rejected Modi and his message and campaign style, lock, stock and barrel. A clearly subservient Election Commission helpfully broke up the Bengal polling into eight phases starting on March 27 and closing on April 29.
During this period the daily Covid19 cases rose in Bengal from 812 to 17,403. Breaking it into eight phases didn’t help the BJP either. It lost in every phase and got double digits only in four. Bengal has a sizable Muslim electorate and Modi didn’t mince words in targeting them by making it appear that they were Mamata’s personal vote bank. He didn’t bother to even conceal what he thought of them.
His electoral style touched a new low, even by his standards and most certainly by standards expected of a Prime Minister, when he jibed her by catcalling “Didi-O-Didi”.
Urban Bengal responded to this by defeating the BJP soundly in all urban constituencies. There is a message here. All over the country the BJP and RSS have strong urban bases, but urban and urbane Bengal administered a resounding slap to gutter politics. With no record to show Modi’s politics are nothing but that now.
There was no surprise in Assam. The ruling BJP was returned by almost the same margins as 2016. It gets its majority with the AGPs 9. The Congress lacked a visible local leadership who could match wits with BJP’s Hemanand Biswal Sarma.
Tamil Nadu was as expected. The two so-called national parties were just parvenus clinging to crumbs thrown by the two so-called Dravidian parties. The DMK’s Stalin made no bones about what he thinks of Modi’s Hindu and Hindi centric politics. The Modi government used every means at its disposal including ED raids to slow down Stalin. The ED even raided Stalins daughter.
In Kerala Pinrayi Vijayan showed why he is India’s topmost and only surviving commissar.
So where does our politics go from here? One clear conclusion is that both the BJP and Congress were dealt severe blows. It is interesting that the BJP campaigns were entirely shouldered by Modi and Amit Shah. None of the top BJP leaders even bothered to show up anywhere.
What must not be missed was that Raksha Mantri and former BJP president was the first from the BJP to congratulate Mamata Banerjee.
In Assam Sarma’s supporters have gone public crediting the victory to their leaders. Hemananda Biswal Sarma has already fired a shot across Sonananda Sonowal's bow by stating that he was no more interested in being just a minister in someone’s cabinet. The numbers might work for him for he just needs just a dozen MLAs to crossover and give Assam a new regime. Sarma was a Congress satrap till Rahul Gandhi insulted him by preferring to playing with his dog than to listen to him. Rahul will be all ears now.
Mamata’s stunning victory puts her squarely on the centre stage of opposition politics. Joining her there will be Lalu Yadav, who has been released on bail by the Supreme Court despite the governments strenuous opposition. Tejaswi Yadav has shown he is capable of leading a party when the RJD came so close to upstaging the BJP-JDU alliance in Bihar.
Rajasthan’s Gehlot and Punjab’s Amrinder Singh have emerged as fairly independent Congress satraps.
Uddhav Thackeray has shrugged off the Shiv Sena’s pariah status by providing Maharashtra with good leadership and a penchant for making politics the art of the possible.
In Telangana KCR has put the BJP in its place by a resounding win in Nagarjuna Sagar after its surprise showing in the Dubbaka and GHMC polls. YSRC scored a resounding win in Tirupati with the BJP candidate a retired Chief Secretary, losing her deposit.
The anti BJP line up now has seven Chief Ministers, excluding Navin Patnaik. Seven CMs will mean that the election and propaganda machines can be kept well-greased and the powder kegs dry and replenished.
Modi’s inability to defend India against the second Covid19 wave, and his inability to cajole the Chinse from withdrawing from areas occupied in Ladakh now make him an easy target. The Gujarat model has been long exposed as bogus. There is light seen at the end of the tunnel.
Cover Photograph of opposition rally at Brigade Ground in 2019.