Kolkata, India: With millions of infections and nearly 300,000 deaths, India is experiencing a coronavirus disaster, but it is unlikely to have a significant influence on Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s electoral fortunes. This is why.
What is the severity of the situation?
Of many locations, the health system has been overwhelmed by a large increase in cases.
Officially, the death toll has surpassed 300,000 people. However, many experts believe the genuine figure is three to four times greater, if not more.
Hundreds of deaths have been thrown in rivers or laid to rest in shallow graves.
Only 3% of the population is fully immunized.
After criticizing the government’s “stubborn aversion to evidence-based policies,” India’s top virologist recently resigned from a scientific advisory council.
Was the government complacent?
Early in 2021, it appeared that India had beaten the pandemic.
India has “saved the world from disaster by bringing the situation under control,” Modi said on January 28.
Huge political rallies for a series of elections, as well as enormous religious events, such as the Kumbh Mela, which drew millions of mostly maskless pilgrims, went on as planned.
Critics claim that the government did little to prepare for a new surge of diseases. The production of oxygen was not expanded, and field hospitals were decommissioned.
Is Modi’s popularity dwindling?
Two recent studies, Twitter hashtags such as #Modiresign, and a slew of anecdotal evidence all point in that direction.
For many, the fact that construction on a massive makeover of the Indian parliament complex has resumed is emblematic.
“(Bodies) are literally floating in the river Ganga,” said student Oindrila Ghosh, 19.
“Why is the government prioritizing this (project) more than the health and safety of the public?”
Some of Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) supporters are dissatisfied.
The government “made a terrible mistake by not planning for a Covid second wave disaster,” Amit, 38, a self-declared “hard-core” BJP supporter told AFP.
“This will make people like me not vote in the next election for the BJP or any party.”
Shailja Jain, 28, claimed the BJP’s “fascist, sectarian, casteist, hyper-capitalist agenda” had already hurt her support since she voted for Modi in 2019.
“But their handling of the Covid-19 pandemic was the absolute last straw,” the chartered accountant told AFP.
How is Modi retaliating?
The BJP has gone on the offensive, criticizing state governments and others for ignoring what it claims were Modi’s repeated warnings of a second wave, with the help of its social media army.
The BJP produced a “toolkit” this week allegedly assembled by the opposition Congress party with the goal of “spreading bogus, bad news and stirring up discontent.”
The BJP’s national spokesman’s tweet, which included screenshots of the claimed blueprint, was deemed “manipulated media” by Twitter.
Will it be detrimental to Modi in the long run?
The BJP scored poorly in several constituencies in Uttar Pradesh and failed to win the state election in West Bengal.
Some blame Modi’s handling of the pandemic for this.
However, local problems played a huge role in these elections, and the BJP did well in Assam and Puducherry, as well as making significant gains in West Bengal despite not winning the state.
The only serious competitor on the national level is the sick Congress, and the next general election isn’t until 2024.
“The Congress has completely collapsed everywhere,” said Kanchan Gupta from the Observer Research Foundation.
“Once initial anger subsides, people (will) start looking at things more rationally,” Gupta told AFP.
Michael Kugelman from the Wilson Centre said the current situation “will be forgotten soon enough”.
Even if the pandemic continues, this is the case.
“Modi is likely to go into the next election from a position of strength — no matter how the pandemic plays out,” he told AFP.
However, Pratap Bhanu Mehta, a contributor to the Indian Express, is skeptical.
“This crisis is so personal to most people, it’s not an abstract crisis. It’s not happening to other people, it’s happening everywhere,” he told AFP.