Fatal Ambition

Photo credits: PTI

By R. Raj Rao

NOW that the BJP has suffered a debacle in the West Bengal elections and is unable to form a government in the state, here are a few questions to ponder over.

Were all the election rallies that led to a huge spike in corona cases, and even led to the death of some candidates who contested the elections, worth it? Was it necessary for the elections in West Bengal to be held in eight phases? Is the Election Commission so compromised that it does not have a will of its own, but has merely to kowtow to the wishes of the union government? Small wonder, then, that the Madras High Court recently ruled that the Election Commission should be held accountable for mass murder, a verdict against which the Election Commission has filed an appeal in the Supreme Court. Mamata Banerjee herself plans to drag the Election Commission to court over the Nandigram result. Those of us who were around when the independent-minded T. N. Seshan was the Chief Election Commissioner can see, with a sense of dismay, how the Election Commission has completely lost its autonomy.

The Delhi High Court has warned the central government that contempt proceedings will be initiated against it, if it fails to explain the capital’s oxygen shortage. This is a welcome move, for it isn’t enough for the higher judiciary to merely go after the Election Commission. They need to gun for the central government itself which misled the nation in March by declaring that India had won the fight against corona, and that the dreaded disease had been more or less eradicated from the country. But did the PM consult doctors before he spoke? Did he not know that other countries had experienced a second wave, and this would sooner or later hit India as well? Did nobody tell him that there were mutant strains of the virus, such as the UK strain, the Brazil strain and the South Africa strain, and that there could soon be an Indian strain that made its appearance?

The current Covid tragedy has led India to go round with a begging bowl, no offence meant, to other countries for help. America has rushed aid to India to the tune of 100 million dollars. The United Kingdom, France, Germany, Belgium, Ireland, Italy, Australia, Sweden, Switzerland, Norway, Finland, Luxembourg, Portugal, Rumania, Hong Kong, Thailand, Saudi Arabia and the UAE have all come to India’s rescue. Even ‘enemy’ countries like China and Pakistan, and tiny principalities like Bhutan, have offered to contribute their mite.

But do these countries know that while India has asked them for help, the central government continues to go ahead with Parliament’s Central Vista Tower project, the cost of which is Rs. 20,000 crore? Do they know that Delhi’s present lockdown restrictions do not apply to construction workers at the project site, who go up and down as if all is hunky dory, risking their lives? But, in a month when workers of the world unite, is the government really concerned about the lives of the poor? If it was, we would not have witnessed last year’s migrant labour tragedy.

Someone rightly said on Twitter that before the world rushes aid to India, it must formulate strict eligibility criteria for receiving the aid. Speaking of social media, Facebook allegedly removed a post that called for Modi’s resignation, and restored it only when there were protests.

If things weren’t as bad as reported by the media, except of course the godi media (one godi TV channel did not cover the election results, ostensibly because of the covid crisis, but really because it knew the BJP was losing in Bengal), India would not be isolated by the world today. The US has asked all its citizens in India to leave the country at once. Many other countries have banned flights to and from India. The foreign media has come down heavily on the Modi government. The Australian Financial Review carried a cartoon by David Rowe that showed the Prime Minister blissfully riding an elephant that was dead, without knowing that it had died. This was the cartoonist’s way of demonstrating how cut off from ground realities the Prime Minister is. A friend who lives in Canada wrote to say that they are shocked by the invisibility of the political opposition during the present crisis.

The most haunting and terrifying image for the world to see on their television screens is that of dozens of funeral pyres simultaneously burning in all our crematoriums and graveyards. We seem to have receded into the Dark Ages!

Yet religion takes precedence over everything else. The recently concluded kumbh mela threw social distancing and the wearing of masks for a toss, leading to the deaths of many who attended it, including the deaths of some well-known people, like music director Shravan Rathod. But hardly is it over, then the Uttarakhand government now speaks of conducting the Char Dham festival in the middle of May. Whether this other super-spreading event will finally be held or cancelled still remains uncertain.

Two years ago, the BJP was returned to power at the centre with a thumping majority. Can they be sure of the same success if general elections are held today? Many of the party’s own members and their families have succumbed to Covid.

Everything is in short supply, from hospital beds to ventilators to oxygen cylinders to vaccines. In the circumstances, is the claim that vaccines will now be available to everyone above the age of 18 anything but a political gimmick to give the government brownie points? Most states have made it clear that they will be unable to vaccinate all adults for now. I myself am stuck, having had my first jab in March, but being turned away wherever I go for my second jab today, six weeks later. It would have been much better if the drive was conducted phase-wise, in accordance with the availability of vaccines. Seniors should have been vaccinated first, then everyone between the ages of 45 and 60, and only then should have the vaccines been thrown open to all, by which time more manufacturers would have entered the fray. This is how most countries handled their vaccination drive.

As of now, we need to retain our optimism in the face of all odds, and hope to see better days in the future. That is, if tomorrow, death does not knock on our door.

Views expressed in the article are the author’s own and do not necessarily represent the editorial stance of Kashmir Observer 

Dr. R. Raj Rao is an internationally known Indian English novelist, poet and critic. He was Professor and Head of the Department of English at the University of Pune in Maharashtra. He has also been a Visiting Professor at universities in Canada and Germany 

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Feature image credits: PTI

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