Modi Lost in India's Covid Crisis

PM tries to rise above criticism for his government’s failings

By: John Elliott

Mired in India’s Covid-19 crisis, India Prime Minister Narendra Modi is marking the seventh anniversary in power with emotional speeches, on one occasion seemingly moved near to tears. He is trying to rise above his government’s failed management of the pandemic and show himself sharing the country’s pain in the style of a non-executive president or religious leader.

With over 300,000 – and maybe as many as one million – dead because of the pandemic, this is Modi’s attempt to sidestep his failure to run the country in April when Covid cases soared. Instead of organizing health crisis facilities and a stable supply of vaccines and encouraging mask-wearing and social distancing, he and Amit Shah, the powerful home minister, addressed closely packed mass rallies during state assembly elections.

Political power, not governance, is Modi’s top priority. After showing that in April, he again illustrated it on May 24 when he reportedly called a meeting of top government and Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leaders to plan how to recover politically in time for state assembly elections, even though they are nine months away. The NDTV news channel said that the main focus was Uttar Pradesh, an authoritarian BJP stronghold, where a multitude of Covid deaths has even led to hundreds of bodies floating in the sacred River Ganges…

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