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While Opposition parties appear ‘united’ now, they were against each other during COVID crisis and played with our lives

These politicians are not coming together because they care for people like you and I. They are coming together to defeat Modi. But in their bid to defeat Modi and bring him down, they have played with our lives in one of the worst health crisis the world has faced in a hundred years.

The political landscape in Delhi is warming up. There are a few high stake state assembly elections lined up before the big 2024 general elections, like the Uttar Pradesh elections and Gujarat elections, which is the home turf of PM Narendra Modi and Home Minister Amit Shah.

Interesting scenes are unfolding in the national capital these days. Have a look:

Earlier yesterday, just before Mamata Banerjee’s arrival on the scene, Rahul Gandhi tweeted a picture of ‘opposition’ leaders.

He found the meeting very humbling. Mamata Banerjee, who was also to be in Delhi on Wednesday, was missing from the same. Was she not being considered part of ‘opposition leaders’? Of course, TMC leaders were present but could they have delayed the meeting by a few hours to include Banerjee? In Rahul Gandhi’s defence, this could be a meeting of all MPs discussing how to create ruckus in Parliament on the Pegasus non-issue. And since Mamata is not an MP, she could not be there.

There is soft power play happening here. Rahul Gandhi on his Twitter profile has not posted picture of him meeting Mamata Banerjee. He shared image of meeting all opposition leaders earlier. Lowkey sending message to Mamata that Congress and TMC are not really ‘equal’?

West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee visited Delhi to meet opposition leaders. She clearly wants to project herself as not only the tallest leader in the opposition camp, but also as a contender for the PM’s post in 2024 (oh, the horror of ‘khela hobe’ across India). She was also lowkey letting Congress know that Rahul Gandhi is perhaps no match for her as even though she lost the seat (Nandigram) she was contesting from to BJP’s Suvendu Adhikari, she is a Chief Minister while Rahul Gandhi lost the ‘family seat’ of Amethi to BJP’s Smriti Irani and had to make do with a ‘safe seat’ in Wayanad.

She even met Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal.

Did you know during the second wave of Chinese coronavirus pandemic Delhi was one of the worst hit states? With oxygen crisis leading to deaths of so many individuals, something that could and should have been avoided.

‘United’ opposition divided during coronavirus crisis

But you know how this ‘united opposition’ was so fragmented during the pandemic that has gripped the nation and the world since past 18 months? Here is just a glimpse at how these very leaders played petty politics when our lives were at stake. And I am not even going to write about the horrifying post-poll violence unleashed by TMC workers in West Bengal. Because one hopes the NHRC and courts and other competent authorities will take care of it, even if Calcutta High Court contemplates whether the rapes and murder cases may be delayed.

Let us begin with Didi since she has not really tried to make any secret of her national ambitions.

Mamata Banerjee refusing to help other states

In April, when the country was hit with the worst oxygen crisis, with patients losing their lives because of lack of oxygen supply, the central government started working on war footing to make sure states where there is higher crisis, the supply is ensured. Oxygen Express trains were run to carry oxygen from states where industries were instructed to convert their plants to manufacture medical oxygen. Even corporates pitched in with companies like Reliance and Adani group doing their bit to help India pass over the crisis.

What did Mamata do? She refused to help other states. She refused to divert oxygen from her state to other states. It was not that Bengal was having a higher crisis and she was just trying to protect people. She just refused.

One wonders how fair a national leader would she be if she thinks lives of other Indians is expendable.

Speaking of Indians being expendable, an interim report on the audit of medical oxygen demand and consumption in Delhi prepared by a Supreme Court appointed committee has confirmed what was being suspected, that the Delhi govt was grossly overestimating its oxygen demand during the months of March and April. The sub-group constituted as per the apex court to study the oxygen situation in Delhi has said that the state was demanding much more oxygen than required, and had hampered the oxygen supply chain in the entire region.

The SOS messages from hospitals, the urgent hearing at courts, the images of queues of oxygen cylinders, the black marketing of oxygen cylinders and concentrators, patients cramped up in and outside hospitals and sometimes even e-rickshaws converted into makeshift ‘hospital beds’ all of them are real. The people in Delhi suffered all of them.

The staggering mismanagement by the chief minister of a state, who takes immense pride in being an engineer from the IIT and a former bureaucrat, is appalling. Instead, he spent lakhs in giving advertisements in other states asking private individuals to give him cryogenic tanks. Since these tankers are so superspecial, they were scarce resources. Kejriwal could have called up chief ministers of states and asked them for details from perhaps transport department on registered vehicles. But no, he gave advertisements to ‘show’ he works when actual work would have been easier and faster.

And then what did his leaders do? Since they could not save lives, they decided to offer free wooden logs for cremations of those who died of COVID. They would run tempos advertising free logs for cremation on streets of Uttar Pradesh, a state where the party does not even have an MLA.

‘Free lakdi seva’ by Aam Aadmi Party leader

So, that is there.

Speaking of Uttar Pradesh, remember how Akhilesh Yadav played petty politics and has declared he would not take the ‘BJP vaccine’? The vaccine which was developed by researchers and scientists made available by the government of India for the people of India was termed ‘BJP vaccine’ – he even went on to say how he will give vaccines to people once Samajwadi Party forms government in UP. UP goes to elections next year – so for a year, he wanted the people of UP to be deprived from vaccines only because why let pandemic get into the way of politics.

And then there is Congress. The grand old party that feels so entitled that the party’s senior leader Rahul Gandhi wakes up from his slumber every few days and tweets misinformation regarding vaccines. He would not rebuke his own party leaders for spreading vaccine hesitancy in their states, but would question the government on vaccination coverage. Congress’ misdeeds throughout the pandemic deserves a book in itself.

In April 2021, Rahul Gandhi had written to PM demanding that state governments have a greater say in vaccine procurement. Rahul Gandhi said in the letter, “Centralization and individualized propaganda are counter-productive. Even though Public Health is a state subject, our states have been bypassed right from vaccine procurement to registration.” Consequently, he demanded, “Give State governments a greater say in vaccine procurement and distribution.” Similar letter was written by Mamata Banerjee in February 2021.

The states were not able to manage vaccine procurement and as a result the people of India suffered. When in June PM Modi announced that the Centre will again take charge of vaccine procurement, Congress again rushed in to take credit and portray Rahul Gandhi as some sort of visionary. While in reality he is more like The Joker, who perhaps not only enjoys watching the world burn but given a chance would happily do it if it means becoming the Prime Minister of India.

The whole ‘united opposition’ drama reminds me of the scene from The Dark Knight.

It is a conversation between Bruce Wayne and his butler Alfred Pennyworth.

Bruce Wayne: [while in the underground bat cave] Targeting me won’t get their money back. I knew the mob wouldn’t go down without a fight, but this is different. They crossed the line.

Alfred Pennyworth: You crossed the line first, sir. You squeezed them, you hammered them to the point of desperation. And in their desperation, they turned to a man they didn’t fully understand.

Bruce Wayne: Criminals aren’t complicated, Alfred. Just have to figure out what he’s after.

Alfred Pennyworth: With respect Master Wayne, perhaps this is a man that *you* don’t fully understand, either. A long time ago, I was in Burma. My friends and I were working for the local government. They were trying to buy the loyalty of tribal leaders by bribing them with precious stones. But their caravans were being raided in a forest north of Rangoon by a bandit. So, we went looking for the stones. But in six months, we never met anybody who traded with him. One day, I saw a child playing with a ruby the size of a tangerine. The bandit had been throwing them away.

Bruce Wayne: So why steal them?

Alfred Pennyworth: Well, because he thought it was good sport. Because some men aren’t looking for anything logical, like money. They can’t be bought, bullied, reasoned, or negotiated with. Some men just want to watch the world burn.

These politicians are not coming together because they care for people like you and I. They are coming together to defeat Modi. Which is fair in a democracy and politics. But here, in their bid to defeat Modi and bring him down, they have played with our lives in one of the worst health crisis the world has faced in a hundred years.

That their political ambitions trumped our lives should act as a cautionary tale.

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Nirwa Mehta
Politically incorrect. Author, Flawed But Fabulous.

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