Virtual rallies addressed by Union Home Minister Amit Shah this week have triggered joy, outrage and shock in equal measure. BJP workers in Bihar, Odisha and West Bengal, the three states which Shah singled out for his attention, are happy. The purpose had been served, they gloated, pointing out that Shah had put the opposition on the mat, had posed inconvenient questions and brushed aside criticism of the Union Government’s handling of the economy and the COVID-19 crisis. The polarising message of the ruling party had been conveyed and the contentious Citizenship Amendment Act which had triggered countrywide protests late last year, had been revived. Although Shah, who was conspicuous by his silence and absence in public for the duration of the lock- down, took pains to claim that the virtual rallies had nothing to do with politics, he spoke on nothing but politics. If he declared to his audience in Bihar that the NDA under Nitish Kumar would return to power with two-thirds majority, he warned the West Bengal chief minister that she would become a ‘political refugee’ after the election. While addressing his audience in Odisha, the redoubtable Home Minister took pot shots at the opposition and ridiculed opposition leaders who spoke to ‘Swedish epidemiologists in English’. Shah’s blatantly political rallies at a time when the country is grappling with death and disease outraged people in equal measure. Here was a Union Minister under whose watch the Home Ministry had taken charge of the country’s battle against the pandemic and issued a string of guidelines to the states. The MHA had sent central teams to assess ground situations and warn the states. It had monitored the lockdown, unleashed the police and pushed a worthless app for contact-tracing down the throat of the people. But now, without conceding his government’s utter failure in controlling the situation and its shamelessness in shifting the burden belated y to the states, Shah was busy criticising everybody except himself or the Union Government. There was shock that Shah, who was nowhere to be seen during the lockdown crisis, had now emerged to promote his brand of politics over everything else.
Politics and elections matter more to the BJP than governance. In state after state the party has demonstrated that its obsession for wresting political power and push through its political agenda outweighs every other concern. That is why even as the country appears rudderless, reeling at the economic and humanitarian crisis in the wake of the pandemic, Shah and the BJP have been busy toppling the government in MP, trying its best to topple the government in Maharashtra and poaching opposition MLAs in Gujarat to win seats in the Rajya Sabha. The focus of the virtual rallies on the states which are poll-bound later this year or the next, should not have come as a surprise therefore. All the states- manlike talks of a united nation taking on the crisis together, of chief ministers being part of Team India are clearly deceptive and not meant to be taken seriously. It appears the opposition actually committed a mistake by offering to lend its shoulder to the Government to fight the crisis together. The Home Minister’s virtual rallies, executed at great expense and considerable time and effort, demonstrate once again that the BJP is neither inclined nor is able to put the nation above politics. As the saying goes, a poisonous viper can never be trusted.