The essence of a healthy democracy consists in a ruling party that performs its role focussed on people's welfare and interests and an opposition that co-operates with the government in such functions at the same time critically citing governmental slips and failures. This role division is not incomprehensible to any two sides in democratic India. However, due to reasons more than one, neither the regime nor the opposition parties are able to think above temporary political motives.
The prevailing situation is such that compels the people to perceive that the parties which rule the Centre or states and the opposition alike are led by party interests rather than national concerns for anything and everything. This trend has only strengthened in recent times. The country is not united even in preventing Covid-19, even as it has been wreaking havoc all around the world. The picture on the other hand is of a ruling establishment that works overtime to establish that the success in preventing Covid is due to its own merits and efficiency, and an opposition keen to paint the government as a failure in the effort. All the same, experts have been consistently pointing out that the impact of the deadly virus will not be limited to the health front, but will be felt more greatly in the economic sector and the past and future damage resulting from it can be mitigated only through planned schemes at a global level.
In Kerala, the credit of defending against Covid unitedly, beyond political or community considerations, and of becoming a model of the country as a state with the lowest fatality and highest reovery rates - despite being the state to have the first Covid case of the country - cannot be claimed by the government of the ruling side alone. Almost all parties and organizations, major and minor, and people's collectives have an equal claim to that credit. Failing to acknolwedge this would, in the first place, be at the peril of losing the unity and co-operation essential during the critical time to come when lakhs of expatriates and Keralites in other states arrive here from those regions. And if then things get out of hand, there will be no point in trying to win points by polarising themselves and indulging in loud squabbles through the media and platforms. If any side is under the notion that it will help them make gains in the upcoming elections, they will be fooling themselves. No one need dream of winning support from enlightened Kerala for any of their unstabstantiated claims or rhetoric. In fact, more serious and crucial is the rebuilding of post-Covid Kerala. Going by authentic sources, the government is studying certain plans in this regard and a comprehensive and transparent blueprint will soon be placed before the people. Authorities concerned should display the broad-mindedness and farsight to integrate all people's collectives, including the main opposition, in all the debates and deliberations in this direction.
This word of aution becomes pertinent in the context of the sharpening wrangling between govt and opposition groups about the return of guest workers to their home states. It was a wise and welcome move by the Centre to approve trains to carry labourers hailing from different states including Bihar, Jhharkhand and Odisha from different parts of Kerala, at their request. But the Centre, which refused to allow free travel for those who were already in hardship and misery, passed that buck to the state governments concerned. And in its turn, Kerala government, presumably due to cash crunch, has taken a stance that the labourers themselves should bear the travel fare.
It was in this context that Congress President Sonia Gandhi called on the state units of the party to pay their fare if the central government was not prepared to foot the bill. When the issue came up in Alappuzha district, the promise of the district Congress president to donate Rs 10 lakh towards labourers' fare from Alappuzha to Bihar was turned down by the district collector – pleading inability for want of government approval; this has trigerred a political row. Similar offers were rejected in certain other states too. Further, the chief minister's reference to the Congress offer with a tinge of mockery about it, only served to worsen the dispute. The state government's financial straits is as plain as daylight. And if the decision to not bear the additional burden of travel costs of guest workers was prompted by that, why should the chief minister hesitate to state that plainly? And if in realization of the constraints of the situation any one comes forward to bear that cost, why should that door be closed entirely? It may be a natural fear that the opposition would make capital out of it. But shouldn't the primary interest of poor labourers be the prime concern of a government that claims to stand up for the labour class?