This story is about a virus and a major problem.
Let’s start simple. It is popularly believed that a strong leader is always clear about what he is doing. He is never confused nor does he confuse his followers. But Prime Minister Narendra Modi of India is a different type of strong. His strength is about impunity, with which he can beat the hell out of common sense and sensibility.
Currently, he is beating the hell out of every cautionary message — some of which are shared by him too — at a time when India is witnessing hellish numbers of Covid-19. Massive rallies on one side and a lot of lip service about Covid-appropriate behaviour on the other. All out there on his Twitter handle for the world to see, and get confused.
(Someone sincerely asked, “Does Covid disappear as part of the model code of conduct for elections?” The Election Commission must clarify, or stop issuing belated and hollow ‘warnings’.)
Modi is not alone, of course. Political leaders across parties are doing it. But he is alone when it comes to who is the Prime Minister.
Chalo, now let his tweets do the talking.
On April 11, PM Modi tweeted a video of his large rallies in West Bengal, showing crowds ignoring all Covid protocol. Modi was waving to them with affection. No cautionary message about social distancing. Maybe he just forgot.
He did remember the coronavirus earlier the same day. He tweeted about making Tika Utsav (Vaccination Festival, April 11–14) successful.
In this tweet about the “festival”, he shared a link to an article by him wherein he listed commitments for citizens to make in the fight against coronavirus. He signed off this article with advice on masks and “Covid-appropriate behaviour”, but no emphatic mention of social distancing. (Excerpt below)
A day before that, on April 10, he shared videos of massive rallies. Hardly any masks, utter disregard for “protocols”. It’s a different vibe, man!
. . .
Slight tangent here.
One of these rallies is a day after a mob allegedly sought to take over a polling booth in Bengal’s Cooch Behar region. The central forces opened fire and killed four people, who happened to be Muslims. Their religion is important because the BJP in particular has been making religion a prime issue in the West Bengal polls. Religion matters to many, sure.
In his speech, Modi is effectively calling those killed in the CISF firing “‘goons” after expressing grief at the deaths. They may well be goons, but what explains shooting them above the waist to kill? Are goons to be dealt this way in Modi’s India? You may say ‘yes’. But what when these goons are not Muslims? What when they are from the six religions mentioned in the CAA? What when they may be in saffron robes? Any discount?
According to an eyewitness, the security personnel fired shots after being surrounded by villagers incensed by a rumour that the CISF men had assaulted a 12-year-old boy.
Modi called for “strict action against those responsible for what happened in Cooch Behar”. The signal is towards those killed in firing and not towards a simple question: Why did the CISF personnel shoot them above their waists, killing them, rather than at their legs to be able to disperse them without deaths?
. . .
Anyway, back to Covid and the utter disregard for “protocol”. That same day when he talked about the firing and deaths, Modi tweeted a video of a rally in Krishnanagar, West Bengal. He called it “huge”. Indeed, a huge example of disregard to “protocol”.
Smaller crowds are different, though. On April 9, he addressed an event purportedly in Odisha, where people in attendance were sitting with one seat vacant between them, and wearing masks. Full protocol style! Who told them that masks and distancing are important? Did they not watch Modi’s poll campaign videos? I am #JustAsking.
Earlier the same day, he also wished a happy birthday to Uttarakhand CM Tirath Singh Rawat (the anti-ripped-jeans guy).
. . .
It is worth a mention that Rawat had got Covid recently. He is fine now. He leads a state where millions are gathering for the Hindu festival of Kumbh. Rawat had said that “faith will defeat coronavirus”.
This Kumbh is being held about a year after a Muslim congregation of far fewer people was vilified for “spreading corona”. That Muslim congregation in Delhi was held around the time when the government was still oscillating between dismissing the virus as “no health emergency” and then thinking of a national lockdown after the WHO declared it a pandemic.
. . .
Speaking of CMs and states, Modi on April 8 tweeted a video of his address at a meeting with CMs in which he spoke of “COVID appropriate behaviour”, again. This meeting, unlike the poll rallies, was held via video-conferencing and not in person, because of the Covid risk, obviously.
Early morning that day, he also tweeted his Parkisha Pe Charcha programme to give kids tips on exams. This event too was held online this time and Modi talked about “good values” being essential for kids. I am sure criminal hypocrisy is not one of those values.
Yet, we must know that Modi is serious about Covid. And about vaccination. He also took his second dose of vaccine that day. Busy day!
A day before that, April 7, was World Health Day. In a tweet, PM Modi spoke of how it is important to wear a mask and follow “other protocols”. He did not mention social distancing or the need to avoid congregations, particularly. Some things are better left unsaid.
A day before that, he tweeted a series of videos of massive rallies and spoke about an “own goal” by Mamata Banerjee. Speaking at a BJP foundation day programme the same day, he also cautioned against rumours and “false narrative”.
Modi does follow “protocol” when it is not a huge rally, we told you.
On April 5, he retweeted a tweet by actor R. Madhavan. Aall masked up and far away from each other as actor Madhavan and scientist Nambi Narayanan met Modi to talk about a movie on science and space!
Even on April 4, in a tweet, he was again talking about Covid-appropriate behaviour being important in fighting the pandemic. On the two days before that, though, he shared several campaign videos from Bengal, Tamil Nadu and Kerala.
Note: We will skip April 1, because it was like any other day for Narendra Modi.
On March 31, where this story will end, he tweeted prayers for fast recovery of former CM HD Deve Gowda and his wife Chennamma. They had got Covid and Modi was clearly very worried.
He is fighting COVID-19 like a champ. Also, elections!
That’s all. Stay safe!
(This article was first published on Medium.com by a user with the name Anaam. It has been republished here with the author’s permission.)