Trust the media and BJP trolls to twist half sentences uttered by Rahul Gandhi

BJP trolls and a section of the media taking half a sentence from Rahul Gandhi’s statements and tying themselves into knots has become a familiar pattern. They do succeed in confusing people

(Photo by Naveen Sharma/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images)
(Photo by Naveen Sharma/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images)

Sanjukta Basu

“The only way to stop the spread of Corona now is a full lockdown - with the protection of NYAY for the vulnerable sections,” said Rahul Gandhi on May 4th 2021.

The right wing ecosystem immediately hit back claiming that earlier Gandhi was against the lockdown, now he is favour, why is he giving contradictory statements.

Is Rahul Gandhi being contradictory in his position on national Lockdown? Or is he giving sound suggestions according to time and circumstances?

Last year, on 16 April 2020 speaking to the media in his first online press conference Gandhi said, “Lockdown is only a pause button. It is not a solution. There is an assumption that by imposing lockdown we would defeat the virus, that’s not how it works. The virus would be at its work again as soon as we come out of the lockdown. So, the government must work on an exit strategy, and the lockdown allows the time and space to formulate exactly that. We need to ramp up the medical resources, testing strategies, arrange ventilators. The government should push testing aggressively, and the strategy should be based on moving ahead of the virus rather than chasing it. In addition government must empower the States, provide them with the right resources, GST compensations, establish transparent communication with all Chief Ministers…”

Responding to a question whether the packages announced by Nirmala Sitharaman was sufficient to fight the pandemic he said, “You need to fight on two fronts, health and economy. There will be food shortage soon, government must create a food safety net. Distribute food grains even among those who do not have ration card. Create a minimum income safety net by implementing the NyAY scheme. Transfer cash directly to the accounts of 20 percent of the poorest people. Don’t call it NyAY if you will but do it pre-emptively. Prepare a protective package for small and medium enterprises...”

Watch the full press conference here.

Unfortunately, out of an hour long interaction with the press in which he addressed a wide range of issues, BJP leaders and the media deliberately picked up half of his statement, “lockdown is not a solution” and ignored the rest of his advise. Habitually, they mocked and abused him. BJP general secretary B. L. Santhosh asked, “If lockdown is not the solution, then why have the Congress states imposed lockdown…?”

The key questions, whether the central government had a testing strategy, and whether there was a plan to ramp up health infrastructure and so on remained unprobed.

A year later, as the whole nation is running against time to arrange for their own oxygen, ICU bed, medicines etc it is clear that there was no planning. As soon as India started to unlock and resumed full scale activities including religions and political gathering the virus struck back. Exactly as Rahul Gandhi predicted on 17th February, when he said, “the government is being grossly negligent and over confident about Covid-19. It’s not over yet.”

Speaking on the predictability of the pandemic, Gandhi had said, “Our testing rate is 199 out of a million. The tests done over the last 72 days works out to an average of approximately 300 tests per district. This is not sufficient to predict how the virus is moving. We have to predict where it would be next.”

It is clear that leaders who were responsible for either formulating or implementing the strategy to predict and prepare for the second wave have failed in understanding how the virus was moving and its scale. The buck stops at the Prime Minister who did not even make any statement specifically stressing upon testing until 8th April 2021, a year late than Gandhi.

Regarding the national lockdown last year, Rahul Gandhi was indeed not in favour of a one-size-fit-all policy used by the big rich nations. “No other rich and big country has the scale of migrant population that we have, along with our diversity, so we need India specific model,” he had said.

However, since none of the strategies and actions recommended not just by Gandhi but by several other domain experts have been implemented or even paid heed to we are now dealing with unprecedented crisis. At this point, national lockdown is the only solution to put an immediate stop to the virus spread. Gandhi therefore specifically clarified in a subsequent tweet on 4th May, “I just want to make it clear that a lockdown is now the only option because of a complete lack of strategy by GOI. They allowed, rather, they actively helped the virus reach this stage where there’s no other way to stop it.”

There is no contradiction in Rahul Gandhi’s statements. But Modi and his defence army would keep looking for excuses to distract the nation from real questions of accountability.

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