After a long time, the BJP had an absolutely perfect day yesterday. Over 86 lakh vaccinations in one day left supporters celebrating and opponents fuming. The all important political constituency, those in the middle, seemed almost wholly to go with Modi. That is why folks like Ravish Kumar seemed so frustrated yesterday.
Let us dissect exactly what made the day so perfect. The first part was how it started. There was no big announcement, no bombast, no PR build up towards this day. The only thing people knew is that starting June 21 the Central government is taking charge of the vaccination program. They did not know what to expect. They did not what or how much of a difference this would make.
It is true that state governments had prepared targets for this day. Madhya Pradesh had set a target of 10 lakh, Uttar Pradesh had set a target of 6 lakh per day starting June 21. Gujarat was opening 400 vaccination centers all across Amdavad so that 1 lakh doses could be given in the city each day. This information was in the public domain, but only technically. It was mostly hidden in corners of various web portals. You would have to be a true news junkie to have known about these targets in advance. Because no major newspaper or news channel had a consolidated list. Most didn’t even mention it.
The ‘stealth’ feature of this operation was outstanding. Karnataka pulled a rabbit out of a hat with over 10 lakh vaccinations. The target must have been set internally at some level. If it was reported somewhere in advance, let me know.
This means opponents had no time to prepare their attacks. They were not mentally prepared to go on the offensive. They had woken up on Monday morning ready to begin their usual bellyaching about this or that. Rahul Gandhi began the day with an inane tweet about “It’s Yoga day, not hide behind Yoga day.” What was he even talking about? I have no idea.
But as the day progressed, the opponents realized that something big was happening. First they thought it would be 40 lakh vaccinations. By afternoon, the Cowin dashboard had gone way past that. People began speculating about whether it would go past 50 lakh. By 5 pm, we had exceeded that and the data was still pouring in. By evening… it was 60 lakh… by late evening 70 and the 75 lakh. By late night, it had crossed 80 lakh.
All day, the government kept people guessing and speculating. As if the government itself had no idea what would happen. On their part, the opponents did not know whether to ridicule or to applaud. They did not want to be seen as going against people when they are happy. They did not want to walk into the trap of applauding the government and therefore neutralizing themselves. This kept opponents off balance the whole day. Nobody was watching them. Everyone was watching the scoreboard.
One interesting feature was that NDA ruled states accounted for 70 percent of the vaccine doses given. Surely, there was some planning involved. The opposition and their media surrogates got no wind of it.
This is what an innings defeat for the critics looks like. By evening, the critics emerged, hissing and spitting venom. Ravish Kumar has been a shadow of himself lately. He had invested a lot of mental capital into the ‘farmer’ protest thing. Ever since that protest became an overall farce, he has not been able to get his rhythm back. Yesterday, when he came out cribbing about how 80 lakh vaccinations per day is too less compared to the Pulse Polio program, he just looked ridiculous.
Incidentally, only a few weeks ago, when PM Modi had spoken about how the India of old would have to wait decades for vaccinations, Ravish Kumar had produced one of his self-satisfied monologues about why you can’t compare polio vaccination to Covid vaccination. Yesterday, Ravish Kumar just looked like he had worms in his brain.
Rahul Gandhi would have done well to stay quiet today and let the storm pass. That’s one of the basic rules of politics. Take cover and hold fast when your opponent is on a roll. But if he ever knew the basic rules of politics, he would not be Rahul Gandhi, would he? So he just had to go out there today and “expose” the Modi government with what he thought was a blistering address to the media. And again, he went down the rabbit hole of comparing Polio vaccination rates to Covid vaccinations.
Rahul Gandhi has done the BJP a favour, as usual. While we are all relieved about India finally being polio free, our record on polio eradication is disastrous to say the least. The US became polio free in 1979 and most of the developed world had eradicated the disease by the 1980s. By the turn of the century, most of Africa had done so as well, including Somalia by 2002. When India became polio free in 2011 (the official declaration came in 2014), we were the fourth last country in the world to do so. Behind us were only Nigeria (which became polio free in 2016) as well as Afghanistan and Pakistan, where the disease is still ongoing.
Suffice to say that this kind of record won’t impress anyone, let alone young India. For the last one year, Congress and its surrogates have been saturating social media with questions about why India is behind USA on this parameter or behind Canada, Norway or New Zealand on that parameter. If Congress had stuck to the context free, unfair comparisons, it would have been better. Trust Rahul Gandhi to remind people of a time when India was in the bottom five in the world. And now Rahul and Sonia Gandhi have to answer for this.