Will Prime Minister Narendra Modi survive the blame for the mishandling of the Covid second wave? There is a lot of speculation as to how he and his team will counter the bad press he is getting on social media as well as the global media. Some feel that he is waiting for the surge to subside before he moves into damage control; and in the meanwhile ministers and party spokesmen are busy tweeting about the work the PM and his team are doing behind the scenes. Naysayers are also being given the example of Boris Johnson who overcame his initial mishandling of Covid in the UK by eventually turning public opinion in his favour. But within the BJP camp there is some concern at the fact that even some of PM’s cheerleaders such as Anupam Kher have begun to ask questions of the way the Centre has handled the crisis. In a TV interview Kher pointed out, “somewhere they have slipped…there is more to life than just image building maybe.” No one doubts the PM’s ability to win elections, as the BJP did well in the recent round, retaining Assam and notching an impressive tally in West Bengal, despite the fact that the polls took place right in the middle of the second surge. However, questions are being raised about Team Modi’s governance skills and this is by far the greatest challenge Modi has faced during his two terms as Prime Minister. It would be interesting to see how he overcomes this. Can he do a turning just like Boris Johnson?
Sonowal’s Consolation Prize
The BJP took nearly a week after the Assam results to announce its CM candidate. There was a problem of plenty, for it had to choose between the then sitting CM Sarbananda Sonowal and the party’s star campaigner Himanta Biswa Sarma. The latter had Amit Shah’s backing and to be fair made a strong case in terms of his deliverables. Finally, when the BJP decided on Sarma, it also decided to move Sonowal to the Centre with a Rajya Sabha membership. Perhaps a Cabinet ministership is also on the cards for Sonowal as a consolation prize, for there was no dire reason to remove him from the CM’s chair. However, the decision to reward Sarma must have sent a reassuring message to others such as Jyotiraditya Scindia, who is still waiting for his Cabinet berth.
The Congress Question
The Congress had its CWC to examine the poll loss and came up with its usual committee route of prevarication. No surprises there. It also decided to postpone its party polls to a later date. Apparently, the decision to postpone was first voiced by Ashok Gehlot and immediately seconded by a member of the G-23, Ghulam Nabi Azad. The party’s alliances during the state polls were also brought into question, with Jitin Prasada in charge of West Bengal pointing out that there was some confusion with the central leadership taking a pro Mamata line, while the state leadership was staunchly anti Mamata. As far as Assam was concerned, Digvijaya Singh, who had been in charge of the state earlier, questioned the alliance with the AIUDF. In the end, it was status quo that prevailed. Is the G23 losing its momentum?