PR and ‘high level’ meetings not enough to salvage ‘Brand Modi’ on oxygen

PM’s ‘high level meetings’ and reports that he is personally monitoring oxygen supply and vaccination have failed to refurbish his tattered reputation. His minders might reflect on limits of PR

PR and ‘high level’ meetings not enough to salvage ‘Brand Modi’ on oxygen

Ranjona Banerji

Allegations of Prime Minister Narendra Modi not doing enough during this second wave of Covid19 in India have caused ripples in the bunker. The PR machinery has been hard at work. Yes, contrary to rumours spread by anti-nationals, some work is done in the bunker.

Now how do you prove that a person who only leaves the bunker for election purposes actually does anything when there are no elections? You organize “meetings”. This is a “trial and error” type of policy, so far.

One error was to organize meetings with chief ministers. Clear non-application of mind. The chief ministers are, you know, politicians. And not all, despite the best efforts of the Best Bunker Friend Amit Shah, are BJP politicians. One evil CM did a “live-telecast” of a meeting without permission. Another wicked chap accused the PM of not listening.

Unacceptable. Politicians. Cannot be trusted.

Of India’s over 700 districts, the PR team decided to carefully pick 100 district magistrates and discuss Covid19 relief with them. The best strategy from the PM last year involved bashing pots and pans together. This year’s advice was “self-reliance”. But you and I know that these meetings have nothing to do with Covid. They have to do with Image.

No sooner was this meeting announced than another one popped up. Two important meetings in a day! The other PR meeting is to oversee the progress of Cyclone Tauktae as it develops in the Arabian Sea and is expected to hit the coast of Gujarat. Gujarat has also been hit hard by Calamity Covid but… why do you keep going there and picking at an old wound?

The virus has a right to live, as a BJP politician informed us.

And in order to assist the virus, the Modi government worked wonders with India’s vaccine policy. Thus, we have more or less run out of vaccines. The ones we make, the ones we want to make, the ones we might buy, the ones we forgot to order. We don’t have much of any.

But we do have a PR team. First the team told the country that we had donated many vaccines because we love the world. Then the team said we had contractual obligations to deliver vaccines. Then the team said we didn’t have contractual or legal obligations. Then the team said don’t take them so often. Then the team said buy them yourself. Then the team said how dare the states try to buy the vaccines themselves.

Then another BJP politician said people who want vaccines are just doing this out of “narrow political passions” and because they want to go against the “whole of government” policy. However, since the PR team was not involved with the “whole of government” policy or even a quarter of government policy, they came up with the 1/7th of districts meeting policy.

This “PR is paramount policy” bring us where we are: the greatest catastrophe faced by contemporary India. We’ve had calamities, with huge costs. But this Covid19 crisis, is all-India, all-pervasive, unrelenting. In early 2020 no one was prepared and any number of governments the world over grappled, tripped and failed. We in India were told we had done better than the rest. In January 2021, the PR team told us that we had beaten the virus and we were the best.

And that is also why this Covid 19 Calamity is worse than anything else. Lies and self-delusion and PR. We were told it was coming. We made no preparations. We did not even order enough vaccines for a country of our size. We played petty schoolyard “my Covid policy is better than yours” games. Even today, we claim that the states had been informed of another wave. What a masterstroke by the PR team. Because a miserable worm like me might ask, if the states were informed, was the Centre also informed? If not, why not. And if yes…

Why were no provisions made for medical equipment? Over a month since the PR team informed us that Modi and Shah themselves were overseeing oxygen distribution across India. And yet, Covid-affected people still die in hospitals, in car parks, on the roads, in their homes, in ICUs connected to ventilators, gasping for breath, for lack of medical oxygen.

There is no PR team on earth that can cover up the smell of death across India unless you let it. Don’t get fooled again.

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