It could be argued that Rahul Gandhi’s interview with Raghuram Rajan was more about the latter than the former. The idea may have been planned to repackage Rahul Gandhi as an intellectual, a concerned thought leader, but the way the entire exercise was framed, Rajan was the one who ended up looking smart, not Rahul. Which makes one wonder if this was not the warm-up to Rajan’s political innings. The former RBI Governor has always made it clear which side of the political divide his instincts veered towards. And with his simplified speak and furrowed brow, he could end up being the millennials’ version of Dr Manmohan Singh. For if there is one issue that is going to dominate the post-Covid politics, it will be the economy for sure. Nothing stupid about that!
New York Times columnist, Tom Friedman recently made a case for a national unity government. He argued that at a time when people from all strata of society were coming together to combat the virus, would it be too much to ask our political class “to mirror the best in us rather than to continue to exacerbate the worst”? His candidate for leading this national unity Cabinet was Joe Biden (and not Donald Trump, no surprises there). But I wonder if the same could happen here. Unlike America, we do have a mass leader in Prime Minister Narendra Modi. What he lacks is bench strength and expertise. Perhaps he could make up for this by drawing on some outside expertise to help him fix the economy, technocrats for the health and science sector, and so on. For what the crisis needs is some deft and expert crisis management. And while Modi is great at Big Announcements, his team has been found wanting on delivery, from GST to demonetisation. And in the aftermath of Covid, an already fragile economy cannot afford any more misses. The question is—will Modi reach out?
There is a view that Joint Secretary, Health Ministry, has become the face of government action on Corona containment. It’s interesting that the PM chose a bureaucrat instead of a minister to front these interactions, but those who know the PM say that this is his style—even while he was Chief Minister, Gujarat he always preferred the bureaucracy to his own ministers and the same seems to be happening as PM as well. In fact more so during the current crisis he is seen reaching out to the bureaucrats directly instead of his ministers. And so Lav Aggarwal’s gain is Dr Harsh Vardhan’s loss.
ANGRY RED ZONES
In the midst of any crisis can politics be far behind? Even if it’s a life threatening crisis like corona! Haryana Health Minister Anil Vij fired the first salvo when he accused the crowd from Delhi of bringing infection across the border, claiming as many as nine positive cases in Sonepat were from Delhi. In retaliation, the Delhi government too pointed out that the crowd travelled both ways. And so the barriers came down heavily on the Delhi-Haryana borders, including the much travelled Delhi-Gurugram route. This included essential services as well. Even media persons in Haryana were told to stick to their areas and Delhi ones were told to report from Delhi. Only passes from the Ministry of Home Affairs were considered valid. Interestingly, even Gautam Budh Nagar (Noida) in Uttar Pradesh blamed the traffic from Delhi for spreading the infection, stating that a large number of the cases in Noida had Delhi as origin. Looks like the capital is in for some neighbourly cold shoulders. There are red zones and then there are angry red zones.