By Sushil Kutty
Post the West Bengal election results, Bharatiya Janata Party leaders were lost sheep, stumped for not knowing what to do and what to say, used as they were to singing praise of dear leader Narendra Modi, so cued they were to raise Modi’s larger than life image to rarefied heights where, apart from fawning BJP leaders, there’s nobody else around. The disappointing West Bengal election results and the no-show in Kerala had left Modi’s underlings comatose, with the only tune playing ‘God save Modi’.
Also, Modi was betraying unease, call it post-poll defeat stress. He was seeing ghosts under the staircase. The Covid-killings in Uttar Pradesh, nay in all of India, and the blunders aplenty in handling Covid’s 2nd wave were coming home to roost. Amidst the floating bodies in the Ganga, Modi was seen looking for excuses and ‘Yogi Adityanath is to blame’ looked the most promising. But a quick reading and reappraisal by the RSS culled that premise near to the bud. The Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister was too hard to pin down.
Now, with his vaccine speech and “free vaccines for all over 18”, Modi seems to have pulled back from the brink. And the BJP’s second rung is once again spouting praise for Modi. Everybody, from party president JP Nadda to Home Minister Amit Shah, from Yogi Adityanath to sundry under-underlings, are jumping over each other to the re-branding of Narendra Modi as the saviour of India’s multi-millions laid low by the pandemic. Modi’s vaccine speech unwrapped BJP tongues from their retreats in the throat.
The next morning’s headline read ‘Home Minister Amit Shah, BJP hail PM Modi, say announcement will put to rest fears, disinformation’. The report said “social media handles of senior BJP functionaries were in an overdrive.” The party clarified that the “groundwork for free vaccination began before the Supreme Court’s observations” even as Yogi Adityanath butted in with “speculation over change in UP government (is) a media creation.” Everybody in the BJP breathed easy after Modi’s vaccine speech even as Modi asked the party to plan for the 2022 Uttar Pradesh assembly elections. He had wrested a few months’ respite for the BJP.
“The Modi Government has always worked with determination towards the safety and health of the people. Today the Prime Minister took a historic decision to provide free corona vaccine to all citizens above the age of 18 years across the country,” Amit Shah said, adding that the decision will “quash the disinformation campaign.” Defence Minister Rajnath Singh tweeted “Prime Minister Narendra Modi has given great relief and new strength to the public”. Party president JP Nadda joined in with Union Petroleum Minister Dharmendra Pradhan, who said Modi’s decision was “historic” and in line with “citizen’s desire”.
So, the morning after, there couldn’t be a more relieved set of BJP leaders, who had been told to keep their yaps shut after the West Bengal debacle and the Covid catastrophe that had befallen party and government both, especially the omnipotent Narendra Modi. His sheen had waned, and his halo was no longer vivid. The ‘ferocious” 2nd Covid wave had left the BJP pinned against the ropes. Ironically, the Opposition’s clamour that the Centre take sole responsibility for vaccinations helped put Narendra Modi back in his party’s driver’s seat!
Also, overnight, the oxygen-starved Bharatiya Janata Party breathed easy. The party is now gunning for Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal and former Congress president Rahul Gandhi, both of whom, along with Mamata Banerjee, were emerging as possible alternatives to Narendra Modi on the national stage. BJP president JP Nadda cannot get over the euphoria of Narendra Modi’s resurrection. “Prime Minister Narendra Modi has once again demonstrated statesmanship,’ he said, adding for good measure that Modi had always “led from the front”.
But the question is, has public perception changed with the free vaccinations sop? The BJP IT Cell appeared to revive, but Social Media continued to target the BJP for the “millions of Covid-19 deaths”. Netizens did not stop blaming Narendra Modi, and even if the major part of the diatribe against Modi is coming from Congressmen and AAP foot soldiers, the fact remains that Modi has to fulfil his promise to 100% free vaccinate India. Modi has to walk the talk, and no “Jumla” please.
Modi’s 32-minute June 7th vaccine speech was chugging along fine till he came to “those who want to pay for the vaccines” and sneaked in the 25% private vaccinations bit. Now, why would anybody want to pay for anything, when it can be had for free? Bet no Gujarati will opt for payment mode when there’s a ‘free payment’ option. Why, even Prime Minister Narendra Modi got the jab for free! Then again, it’s a fact that a lot of “free vaccinations” have been migrating to “paid vaccinations” everywhere, from Punjab to Delhi to Maharashtra.
To date, people were finding it next to impossible to book a day and slot for “free vaccination” on the Cowin app. Most of the available slots were in the private-paid hospitals. This is as true in Pune in Maharashtra as it is at Pathankot in Punjab. For those willing to pay as well as for those unable to pay, most often the only option left was the pay-per-jab one.
Will things change when Modi has left a window open for pay-per-jab? Hardly likely. It’s no new news that Narendra Modi has always been a very “private” person, never failing to give the private sector a leg up, and a shoulder shuffle. The private sector has always thrived and prospered under Modi’s watch, forget what it does to the Aam Aadmi down in the dumps. it’s a no-brainer that Modi’s vaccine speech and free universal vaccinations offer were both geared to lift Modi from out of the hole he was in. (IPA Service)