Despite Surging Popularity, Know Why Denying A Crisis Can Turn Into A Blunder for PM Modi

In July, senior BJP leader, Dr Subramanian Swamy, said that the battle against the coronavirus and Ram temple construction should not be mixed. “It is a ridiculous argument ….,” he waxed eloquent.

But it is true the issues in India are gradually getting overlapped. Some of it could be happening through normal course and some of course due to media’s role. The ‘sickular’ media-political establishment seems to even think that hyped media publicity on the questionable and mysterious death of actor Sushant Singh Rajput is political.

One senior journalist also described as worst kid of ‘sickular polity’ went out of the way to provide a platform to prime suspect in the Sushant death case. Journalism in India is always linked to politics.

Even so called ‘doyen’ Arun Shourie was fired by Late media baron Ram Nath Goenka when the famous editor had misquoted and virtually created a ‘quote’ attributed to the then Prime Minister V P Singh.

The Covid19 media coverage too has been badly hit by ‘political considerations’ of media organisations and websites drawing their ‘funds’ from certain known and unknown sources. Individual journalists are generally toeing the line and saving their jobs.

Thus on one front – the Tablighi Muslim clerics was a major issue, the Left-Liberal (or ultra anti-Modi fundamentalists) class believed ‘migrant workers’ woes will create herculean challenge for Modi.

On August 27, Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman said the Covid19 pandemic was “an act of God” and hence there will be unforeseen factors affecting tax collections. It has been also revealed that there would be a whopping deficit of Rs 2.35 lakh crore in collection of GST.

True, challenges are multiple. The floods have only added to people’s miseries practically across the country – Bihar, Assam and also western India.

Yet a miracle seems to be going around too. Prime Minister Narendra Modi remains unmoved and strong.

“Modi’s popularity is intact because he seems to give an impression that he is doing his best under the given circumstances. Moreover, the average Hindu voter is more than pleased with Modi because he is getting all the tick marks like getting a Ram Temple at Ayodhya and pursuing hardliner policies against Pakistan as well as in Kashmir,” rightly sums up Guwahati-based educationist Manisha Borkotoky.

Believe it or not; a recent survey revealed that “a resounding 78 per cent of the people surveyed found the performance of PM Modi to be outstanding/good”.
Of course, only five per cent of the respondents said the Modi government’s performance has been poor.

In fact, of those surveyed, 38 per cent say Modi’s performance has been ‘outstanding’ and 40 per cent describe him as a ‘good’ Prime Minister.
The study, however, says – the mean score (by Modi) is low amongst non-Hindus (Muslim and other minorities). Muslim respondents rated Modi’s performance with a mean score of 2.33.

Into another plane of debate, it goes without saying that those who study Indian political history know it pretty well that the BJP’s politics remain intertwined with the Ram temple of Ayodhya its other pro-Hindutva ideology. This of course includes fulfilling a longtime pending pledge by both the BJP and the Sanghparivar fountainhead RSS that Article 370 ought to go.

And Modi has achieved these two.

I know a political observer in the Prime Minister’s constituency of Varanasi, who analyses things well. “Elections in India and elsewhere require two things: a popular face and emotive issues. Ideologies may not matter. The BJP has Narendra Modi – the most acceptable face in India, and pursuing temple politics actually attracts millions of Hindu voters”.

This immediately leads to another facet of the debate- the opposition camp comprising Congress, communists and other regional players are stuck in the politics of 1970s with no plans and issues at hand.

The singular point ‘Modi-bashing’ has backfired time and again. Politically, yes, PM Modi’s temple move should be seen as a long-term strategy for general elections of 2024.

Unhindered focus on Sushant:

Bihar will go to state elections to elect its legislature in November. But among the political parties and common people, sadly the flood crisis, governance issues and Corona pandemic are hardly being discussed.

As of Aug 27, Bihar has 126990 cases and on average 1500 to 2000 people test positive for corona daily.

People are instead debating death of the film star Sushant Singh Rajput, who reportedly committed suicide in June in Mumbai – country’s entertainment capital and far off from his native state of Bihar. However, the suicide claims have been contested by actor’s family members and the Bihar government and now central agencies including Narcotics Department, CBI and ED are probing the case.

“Day in and day out, people are discussing the issue and the media too run round the clock programmes on the same and there is no serious discussion on other serious issues like
Corona crisis, economic challenges and joblessness,” says socialist leader I P Singh of Samajwadi Party.0

He may have his complaints against television media.

In fact, it is true that the ‘death’ of the actor is an election issue this year and hence even the media focus is on the same.

On average Covid cases are rising at 4-5 percent everyday. Bihar has hardly 40 doctors per 100,000 population, compared with 90-95 at the national level.

In the US there are 250 medicos for the same population size.

The crisis could be at the door steps as public health centers and even big hospitals have stopped providing routine services to patients including child immunization.

The poor and the middle class people face the same situation in other states too. West Bengal, Maharashtra and Odisha are being run by opposition parties and in each state there are allegations of poor health infrastructures and underreporting of Covid19 cases and deaths.
“The West Bengal government is underreporting deaths caused due to COVID-19 as
there is no proper mechanism in the rural areas to ascertain how a person has died due to corona
or otherwise,” says parliamentarian Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury, who belongs to principal opposition
Congress party.

There are regular and repeated scenes of missing doctors, unattended patients, and stray dogs.

In some states rainwater flooded inside hospitals treating Covid-19 patients.

The Mumbai Police in Maharashtra (where Modi’s BJP is not in power), issued an order under Criminal Procedures Code stopping any person ‘inciting mistrust towards government functionaries and their actions taken in order to prevent spread of the COVID-19 virus’.

In fact, in May, the Editors Guild of India expressed concern over “a growing pattern of misuse of criminal laws to intimidate journalists in different parts of the country”.

On July 12, India reported the highest single-day spike of 28,600 with 23,174 deaths.

During a hearing in the Supreme Court, the bench headed by Justice Ashok Bhushan remarked: “Covid-19 patients are treated worse than animals. In one case, a dead body was found in garbage.”

But things need to be addressed.

India’s COVID-19 case tally crossed 3.3 mn mark on August 27 with 75,760 fresh cases and as many as 1,023 deaths in 24 hours.
This was the worst-ever single day spike of 75,760 Covid cases that has ever been recorded by any country.

The number of containment zones in the national capital stood at 734 on Aug 27 (Thursday) making a
quantum jump from 654 a day prior to that. On August 1, Delhi had 539 such zones.

Denying a crisis and not to accept it as a challenge would be a national blunder.

About the Author:

Nirendra Dev is senior Journalist. He is a longtime northeast watcher and author of books including ‘The Talking Guns: North East India’ and ‘Modi to Moditva: An Uncensored Truth’.