Former Madhya Pradesh chief minister Kamal Nath has accused Shivraj Singh Chouhan and the Modi government of apathy towards the people of the state during the Covid-19 crisis. Singh took oath as the chief minister on 23 March, but his government is functioning without a cabinet. Total number of Covid-19 cases in the state has climbed to 572, with Indore emerging as a major hotspot with nearly 300 cases.
ThePrint asks: Has politics in Madhya Pradesh damaged its battle against coronavirus?
Politics must take backseat in emergencies. MP’s IAS officers, health workers and police doing job on ground
BJP spokesperson, Madhya Pradesh
The coronavirus outbreak is an emergency situation and, like in all emergencies, politics must take a backseat since politicians don’t even make up 1 per cent of the executive strength in India.
In Madhya Pradesh, a state cabinet is yet to be formed, but that doesn’t mean civil servants and government agencies are not executing the central government’s policies in accordance with WHO guidelines. Across states, it is the executive agencies that are under pressure to implement lockdown protocols and other critical measures to curb the spread of infection. There is a ‘get the job done’ attitude among state administrations in Madhya Pradesh. We have more than 350 IAS officers and a large number of law enforcement and medical staff on the ground.
When we look at the surge of coronavirus cases in Indore, it’s important to remember that it is a cosmopolitan city. It is like a mini-Mumbai, which normally has a large influx of foreign nationals. This means it is a high-risk city and the potential for stage 2 contamination of coronavirus is much higher. However, in other cities in the state, like Gwalior or Jabalpur, the threat of coronavirus is less and the fear of spread of infection is not as palpable.
Just like reckless Tabligis, crowd at Shivraj Singh Chouhan’s oath-taking ceremony was hazardous and unwanted
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Politics in Madhya Pradesh has badly damaged its battle against the coronavirus. Since early March, when the state should have been putting together a cogent strategy in place, Madhya Pradesh witnessed sordid drama of MLAs poaching, resort politics, defection and toppling. Just like the reckless Tabligis, crowd at Shivraj Singh Chouhan’s oath-taking ceremony was hazardous and unwanted.
Chouhan and the BJP were simply more fortunate than the members of Tablighi Jamaat that nothing untoward emerged subsequently.
On a broader level, Chouhan, just like Prime Minister Narendra Modi, is projecting the battle against coronavirus as one that needs to be won instantly.
There is no effort, sustained or otherwise, to prepare the masses for the fact that coronavirus may stay on and society may have to live with it. Social distancing, quarantine, isolation are concepts rather alien to the Indian psyche. Therefore, there is a need for constant community involvement — clergy, health activists, public representatives, media and the rest — for a united front. Instead, Madhya Pradesh hotspots are witnessing communal polarisation, superstition and bravado. The absence of a council of ministers in Madhya Pradesh has added to the complications.
As CM, Kamal Nath had shut down public places much before rest of India. Now, there is not even a council of ministers of BJP govt
Congress spokesperson in Madhya Pradesh
The political tussle in Madhya Pradesh is representative of the central and the state BJP governments’ mishandling of the coronavirus crisis. The WHO declared Covid-19 a pandemic on 11 March and India declared a lockdown on 24 March. I believe this delay was due to BJP’s efforts to bring down the Kamal Nath government. Just look at the timeline — on 8 March, the BJP was busy cushioning rebel MLAs in Bengaluru.
In fact, credit goes to the Kamal Nath government for being proactive in announcing a statewide lockdown immediately after the WHO declared Covid-19 a pandemic. Malls, colleges, schools and crowded public places were shut down in Madhya Pradesh long before the rest of the country.
The number of declared Covid-19 cases in Madhya Pradesh is 562, but I have a feeling the number is much higher given less testing in the state. Hospitals are in a pathetic state — there’s a lack of PPE and a large number of frontliners like doctors, nurses and policemen have also been infected and put out of work. This would explain why places like Indore, known to be cleanest city in the country, have recorded more than 306 cases.
The helplessness of the state administration coupled with the fact that the CM is the only sitting minister in government makes me wonder who is taking care of the public in Madhya Pradesh.
It’s clear that food insecurity in MP will become a serious problem during an extended lockdown but Shivraj Chouhan is yet to act
Bhopal-based foods rights analyst
The political tussle in Madhya Pradesh caused irreversible damage in the efforts to curb coronavirus in the state. When the threat of coronavirus became serious around the first week of March, the BJP was breeding discontentment in the Congress’ state unit. Crucial decisions regarding the health emergency were kept on hold at the national level, until the new government was formed in Madhya Pradesh.
Initially, Madhya Pradesh was not in the list of states impacted by the Covid-19 pandemic. However, the new government was formed during the lockdown and since there was no consensus within the BJP on the sharing of positions, the state cabinet is yet to be formed. Two weeks have passed and the coronavirus has been given free access in the state as there are no ministers in the health, food and rural-urban development departments.
Indore has also witnessed violence due to lack of planning at the district level and no space has been created by the district administration for social workers, religious and political leaders over matters concerning the public and its needs. It has been very clear that food insecurity will become a serious problem in an extended lockdown but chief minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan is yet to involve civil society organisations for food distribution and counselling of migrant labourers. The BJP has been at the forefront trying to use the Nizamuddin Markaz incident to give a communal colour to the pandemic but has been silent on the situation brewing in Bhopal.
By Pia Krishnankutty, journalist at ThePrint
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