Prime Minister Narendra Modi who took all the credit for the manufacture and export of the Covid-19 vaccine is now facing the flack from the opposition for his inability to supply vaccines to the States, especially those ruled by non-BJP parties. A prime minister of India presiding over a meeting that discussed oxygen availability and supply is something unbecoming of his office. Is it because of the centralization of power in the hands of PMO? The supply of vaccine and the oxygen should have been left to the health minister who has been busy countering the arguments of the opposition parties or finding fault with Maharashtra government for not being able to manage vaccination.
The arrogance of the leaders of the ruling party is seen when one of them asked Rahul Gandhi if he had taken the vaccination in reply to the latter’s criticism of the government’s attitude towards vaccine supply. The latest variant is local and very fast. The spread of the virus is unpredictable. The data shows that 13.5 per cent tests are proving positive. It was never the case during the last Covid season. During July 2020, the country used to test five lakh persons a day. It went up to ten lakh tests a day in September last. Now it is 14 to 15 lakhs a day. It has reached a saturation level. But the number of those who are testing positive is far bigger. It shows the dangerous quality of the new virus. The percentage of the positivity is a measue of the spread of the disease.
Why did a country that was supplying vaccine to other countries so generously come to this pass? Why is the virus spreading so fast? The answers to both the questions is lack of farsightedness on the party of the rulers. The kumbh mela and the election melas in five states were irresponsible acts on the part of the central government and the Election Commission of India. The polling in west Bengal was stretched to almost two months obviously at the suggestion of BJP leadership. It could have been wrapped up in four rounds. The big election rallies addressed by Modi, Union Home Minister Amit Shah and West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee show the length to which politicians could go to win elections unmindful of public health and safety.
Trying to control everything and managing at micro level is not the job of the prime minister of a country as large as India. He should confine himself to policy formulation and overseeing the implementation of those policies. He has to learn the delegation of power and responsibilities. Using pandemic as a weapon to cow down the governments run by rival parties or to enhance PM’s own image are part of petty politics. Britain which had given license to produce Covishield to a Pune Institute has sent a stinker for going back on promise of supplying the vaccine. The over action on the part of the prime minister during the first wave in declaring lockdown in a matter of hours putting migrant labourers to great difficulty did not go against him. He managed things better by alerting the States, overseeing the production of the vaccine and exporting the same that has brought good name to him. But lack of coordination and delegation of powers is going to bring bad name to him this time around.
This is Modi’s biggest crisis. It has to be seen how he would come out of this. Only delivery would bring him out of the crisis. No political gimmicks or blame games would help.His usual rhetoric of opposition bashing would be of no use. He has to see that more and more vaccine is produced (and raw material is made available) and the people are rescued by organizing more hospital beds and more cylinders of oxygen. It is disappointing to know that the prime minister has asked those who were given licenses to start oxygen plants to go ahead and do so now. This is a small thing that should have been done at a lower level long ago. Punjab Chief Minister Captain Amarinder Singh complains that his State government’s application to start oxygen plant is yet to be cleared by the union government. Of late, Narendra Modi’s dynamism is missing.