Opinions

Covid: Rhetoric wont Help, govt has to deliver

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Shrewd political strategies can work only to a limited extent when people themselves have a lot to bother about. At present, majority are too concerned about health issues linked with Covid-19 to be apparently moved by any other issue. Where does this place communication skill of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his team? Had he not been a master strategist, the question of his winning 2014 parliamentary polls and returning to power in 2019 would not have prevailed. Of course, his success also rested on faulty strategies of his rival parties. But at present, the situation is different. The next parliamentary polls are not around the corner. Bihar assembly elections are scheduled later in this year. And BJP is keen to sweep polls in this state.

In the 243-Bihar Assembly, BJP has 54 members while its key ally JD-U has 70. Against 131 members of NDA in power, the opposition- UPA has 106 members with 80 from RJD and 26 from Congress. Perhaps, if Covid-phase had not engulfed Indian scenario at all levels — social, political, economic and also diplomatic — prospects of Modi-wave gaining more seats than before in Bihar would have been fairly strong.

The Covid-phase has certainly placed a taxing test for actual leadership skills of Prime Minister Modi. It is well known that had he not donned the “secular” mask, his victory in 2014 elections may not have been possible. However, he shrewdly chose not to use the same strategy, that of using secular mask, for 2019 polls. Had he done so, too many questions would have been showered at him from several quarters. Also, it is possible, his manipulation of Pulwama may have contributed to his party’s massive victory in 2019.

The preceding point suggests that anti-Pak card apparently played a major role in BJP’s 2019 victory. What cannot be ignored is that despite exercise of such communication strategies, the party returned to power with less than 40 percent votes. One may analyse this from several angles. First, from day one, perhaps hype has been raised about his wave as well as leadership potential. Second, BJP’s victory may not have been possible had opposition put up a better fight. Third, it cannot be denied that BJP played a better role in electoral politicking by openly and silently allying with regional parties than its rival parties. At the same time, the reality that this party’s strength on its own, without alliance with key regional parties, is primarily confined to the Hindi belt cannot be ignored. Bihar falls in the Hindi belt. Politically speaking, at present, the party cannot afford to weaken its base here.

Yet, with problems created by the Covid-phase, Modi and his party are apparently caught in a tight political situation. The question of gathering masses for rallies and other forms of electoral campaign are as good as non-existent at present. In fact, the Covid-phase has restricted use of communication strategies where social distancing is violated. Also, problems faced by migrant labourers of Bihar and other poor classes, particularly from rural areas, have their own political risks for parties in power at the Centre as well as at the state level.

At present, subtle attempts are apparently being made to divert people’s attention from the negative impact of Covid-phase to China. But China is not Pakistan. And at present even if anti-Pak and/or communal cards are used, prospects of these having the desired electoral impact are fairly limited. Questions are being posed regarding how many hospitals beds are available and how the present leaders, at Centre and at various state-levels, responsible for it. If they have funds for building statues and so forth, what has prevented them from paying due attention to attending to basic needs of Indians? And this may be viewed as the crux of leadership-crisis, Modi seems faced with.

There are no answers for the number of hospitals that present government is responsible for setting up. The same can be said about the educational institutions. If it was not for Covid-phase, these questions may not have risen. Certainly, attempts have been made to add a communal touch to this problem by holding minorities responsible for spread of the coronavirus. Spread of fake “news” through WhatsApp and other means of communication has been resorted to. But then, circumstances are such that touching on people’s sensitive “religious” nerve has not contributed to distracting them from the Covid-phase.

This government has repeatedly claimed that it has accomplished in a few years what was not achieved in the preceding decades. Congress leaders can raise questions on how many hospitals, etc, have been built by them. As mentioned earlier, the China-card bears little importance electorally. Notwithstanding the command this government has over numerous means of communication, at present Indians need help to combat Covid-19. Clearly, its spread is spelling more panic for people. And leaders are falling short of taking appropriate measures, at least, in the eyes of the public. There is a difference between being a master strategist for electoral politicking and exercising communication strategies while in power. People expect result-oriented work not rhetoric from leaders in power!