Amit Shah's virtual ralliestext_fields
Even as half of the Covid-infected patients of the country have recovered, fears about community spread of the virus have not subsided. Each day reports over ten thousand Covid-positive cases. At this rate within ten days the number of patients is projected to exceed 5 lakhs. There is also a warning in a study by ICMR (Indian Council of Medical Research) experts (though ICMR has disowned it later saying it was not peer-reviewed) that the virus will reach its peak in November. That is to say, after 80 days of lockdown the country is still in the shadow of virus fear. Despite the fact that lockdown has helped significantly reduce the spread of the disease and fatality rate, when compared with countries who have adopted similar preventive strategy, India is far behind. In that sense the lockdown, which was declared without any planning at three hours notice and with no breathing time for people to prepare, should be accepted as a failure.
To be read along with the Covid facts is the deaths of hundreds of people due to reasons only indirectly related to Covid, such as mass exodus of migrant labour, economic uncertainty and unemployment. Nor have bodies like ICMR been able so far to make a calibrated defence against Covid. If we ask why it was so, the answer is clear: the government that rules the country, or the party that leads it, i.e. the BJP, had no clear perspective about it. Even the Home Ministry has issued as many as 89 orders, either as directives or corrections during the period. During such times, no one was able to find home minister Amit Shah anywhere in the picture. Following this, speculations started spreading about his health condition. Now he has come back to action asserting that he is perfectly health. But, even in his 'second coming' he has little to talk about covid prevention or the uncertainty the country is caught in. Instead, Amit Shah as usual is surging ahead with agenda dear to the Hindutva politics as in the most recent 'virtual rallies'.
Sha's virtual rallies held in Bihar, Odisha and West Bengal have by now become topics of discussion. It is no small feat that sitting in Delhi, he addressed tens of thousands of party workers using the possibilities of social media. This also bears the model of political activities that sociologists predict will form the 'new normal' of post-Covid era of society. That the BJP was able to enter this phase before other parties were able to enter this domain speaks for the mobilisation machinery of the party. Over a crore of people are claimed to have watched the first rally held in Bihar. But such 'terrific' rallies will not constitute the solutions for the problems faced by the country which need creative interventions from the side of the ruling establishment. Ideas and programmes needed for preparing the country for the 'new normal' phase, should be presented. But these rallies not only lacked any signs of such interventions, but all whole discourse heard from them sounded as though such interventions were not part of their job. The states addressed by Amit Shah were those that bore the brunt of the suffering of domestic migration that started following the lockdown announcement. But none of those rallies heard even a passing mention of the 'mass movement' of labourers, which global media and international human rights movement had presented before the world with great concern. Yet the party circles had not forgotten to purchase and provide television sets so that the millions, steeped in poverty as they were, would not miss Amit Shah's speech. In West Bengal alone, 70,000 smart TVs and 15,000 LED devices were supplied. The picture of those villagers watching Amit Shah's speech via TV sets mounted on bamboo poles is a clear commentary of the priorities of the current fascist government.
Amit Shah made it clear through these rallies that even in the 'new normal' era their priority will be the hate politics which has so far given the party big dividends. Although he admitted that there were some failures in covid prevention, he was still revelling in the country's big leap by highlighting Kashmir, Citizenship Amendment Act, the Ram temple construction in Ayodhya, triple talaq bill and surgical strike. In other words, in states including Bihar which face upcoming elections, the cards they will play will still be those of communalism and the 'other'. There was no dearth of such games even during the Covid times. The extension of lockdown until ousting Kamal Nath in Madhya Pradesh and the grand design of horse-trading in Gujarat and Rajasthan where BJP has been facing loss of Rajya Sabha seats were happening when those states were on the brink of community spread. Now when his own ministry relaxed lockdown restrictions, Amit Shah is using it effectively for a different purpose. At the same time when these rallies illustrate BJP's agenda, they also reflect the future seats of power of Amit Shah. All this means that tin the time to come, secular India demands greater vigilance.