As corona cases cross 500 with 14 deaths, two clashing narratives have come to define Chief Minister Jagan Mohan Reddy’s handling of the pandemic. One, Jagan is leading the state with a disruptive approach. Two, he is botching the emergency-like situation by wasting time on fighting legal battles with his political detractors or muzzling voices of dissent. One thing that needs to happen now is providing adequate medical equipment to front-line warriors, protect healthcare providers; another is to ramp up testing to confirm suspected cases.
The Opposition criticized the Chief Minister for understating the severity of the threat to and for being unprepared for the increase in its spread, that the government was not testing enough, that there is a severe shortage of medical equipment. Instead, the Jagan’s administration seems to be embroiled in political and legal slugfest over whether the letter to Union Home Ministry was shot off by Nimmagadda Ramesh Kumar, who according to the Opposition parties was removed unconstitutionally. First, Ramesh Kumar’s move to defer polls was challenged in the Supreme Court which upheld the SEC’s decision to put off elections. For days, the government speculated whether Ramesh Kumar shot off a letter to the Union Home Ministry. The letter now has became a platform for fights with YSRCP Rajya Sabha member Vijaysai Reddy wasting precious time on drafting letters to DGP Gautam Sawang to trace the IP address to nail the “culprit” behind the “forged and fake” letter. In other times, he tweets silly vitriolic comments against political detractors to score some brownie points. Instead, Vijaysai Reddy and his colleagues should be using their valuable time in meeting doctors in hospitals, help the health sector employees, oversee relief works, alleviate the suffering of the homeless and those affected by the corona virus, support MSMEs and construction sector. Sadly, they don’t seem to look at the very people who voted them; they don’t seem to care for the people in crisis. The political dispensation owes it to the people. The kind of vitriol and vendetta politics on display is not going to get Jagan and his colleagues anywhere. For the good of the people of state, politicians especially from the ruling side should rise above their name-calling, swallow their differences and put up a unified fight against the pandemic. Any rational government would keep politics in the backburner, at least at this hour.
The state faces tough time, the times ahead will be even tougher. This is not the time to contest whether English should be compulsory medium of instruction in government schools. This is not the time to move the Supreme Court challenging the High Court’s verdict of scrapping the GOs to make English medium compulsory in government schools. This is the time to ensure that the children of the state get healthy food. This is the time they get good clothes. This is the time to ensure there are enough toilets in villages. This is the time to give them a life of dignity. English can stay.
Good politicians evolve and emerge in times of disasters. As a matter of fact, disasters reveal the true character and strength of good politicians. Politics shouldn’t matter, not at this hour of the crisis. The coronavirus pandemic is first and foremost a public health crisis. Politics should be a secondary problem versus the primary concern of distraught families and of an economy that is severely hurt by the corona crisis.
Jagan should look at the faces of the homeless, the migrant workers, daily wagers, the surviving family members of those who died fighting the battle against Covid-19. A good politician knows that the very nature of responding to a disaster is to deal with the emergency first, and take on political detractors later. It is a no-brainer that emergencies should be met with an emergency reaction. But sadly, dealing with a disaster has become a disaster in AP.