When some officials asked Prime Minister Narendra Modi if he would like to see the state of hospitals, something like an AIIMS’ visit, his reply was an emphatic no. He felt that if he went, there would immediately be a crowd, which meant both danger and inconvenience. Modi himself is maintaining the lakshman rekha he asked the country to follow and is working mainly from his residence. He is talking to several heads of states, video conferencing with ministers and officials. Some chief ministers are continuing their visits to check on healthcare arrangements but Modi’s advice to them is to stay at home and work.
The Shaheen Bagh protests were called off and now the venue is empty. The area has seen no traffic movement over the past few days. Ironically, many were demanding that the protest site be shifted because of the blocking of traffic. For the Modi Government, it is a relief that it could be stopped finally, given that the potestors were adamant about staying put. In any case, the last few days had seen barely three to four people there. All the old women who were at the forefront of the agitation had already left.
The novel coronavirus has neutralised political rivalries between Mamata Banerjee and the BJP for the time being. The Centre-state coordination is going on rather well to meet the crisis. Banerjee had sent a letter to Railway Minister Piyush Goyal suggesting the stoppage of trains, which might have had an influence on his eventual decision. On the supply of medicines, too, there is no complaint from the state. While the CPM and the state Congress were criticising the Centre, Banerjee seemed clear about placing human lives above politics.
The VIP prisoners are panicking. Yes Bank founder Rana Kapoor has requested both the Government and court that he be allowed self-isolation at home because of the threat of infection. But the problem for Kapoor and other such VIPs may be that in courts the judges won’t be there for bail hearings. Meanwhile, the Government wants the VIPs to remain where they are.
Some BJP and Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh leaders propagating that cow urine is beneficial against coronavirus is said to have upset the Prime Minister. West Bengal BJP state president Dilip Ghosh was one of those making such claims. The buzz is that Home Minister Amit shah called and asked him to exercise restraint. Another BJP Lok Sabha Member of Parliament, actress Locket Chatterjee, started a counter-campaign that cow urine is no medicine for the disease.
Locked in Delhi
With the sudden lockdown, many MPs who could not return to their states, are now captive in Delhi. Trinamool Congress leader Derek O’Brien had been in Lucknow at the party where singer Kanika Kapoor, later discovered to be
Covid-19 positive, was also present. Then O’Brien came to Delhi and the lockdown began. So he was stuck in his South Avenue bungalow. Congress leader Deepender Singh Hooda is also in Delhi. Haryana, his home state, isn’t far but he can’t go there. Some Maharashtra and Kerala MPs will also have to be in Delhi until the lockdown is over.
Social distancing has led to lifestyle changes for politicians. In West Bengal, education minister Partha Chatterjee has stopped watching news channels. He is enjoying having lunches with his mother and brother after a long time. He has also started writing a book on the history of Raj Bhavan, the residence of the West Bengal governor. He will touch upon the role of past governors in the book. Some wonder if the literary project is at the behest of his leader Mamata Banerjee, given her strained relationship with the present governor. Nothing like a book on governors to show him in poor light, perhaps?
Kamal Nath has departed as Madhya Pradesh (MP) Chief Minister and Shivraj Singh Chouhan has returned without much fanfare. But that he has scored a huge political victory is not in doubt. After the BJP lost MP, there was a move to bring Chouhan to the national organisation in Delhi. But he declined. Then there were rumours that he may be made a Central minister but he was said not to be interested in that either. After 13 years as Chief Minister, he wanted to remain connected to his political roots. Then it was said he would be made a Rajya Sabha member. That was when this sudden development catapulted him to the Chief Minister’s chair again. There were several names in contention but a majority of MLAs supported him. It had been a test of patience for Chouhan but he has no time to enjoy the moment. He is completely immersed in containing Covid-19.
Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath cancelled the mega event to mark the beginning of the construction of the Ram temple in Ayodhya. The plan had been for hundreds and thousands of people to come to the banks of the river Sarayu on the eve of Navratri to participate. Instead, Adityanath performed a token puja in a temporary temple where his staff were asked to not accompany him so as to prevent crowding.