The Opposition, particularly the Congress, again opposed the Prime Minister Narendra Modi ‘just for the sake of opposition’ when he asked people to turn off lights in their homes and instead light candles for 9 minutes at 9 pm on Sunday in order to shun the ‘darkness’ of COVID-19.
However, opposition leaders, particularly the Congress, as usual, did not convince of the effectiveness of the move in terms of fighting the coronavirus pandemic. What seemed to irk many was the PM stating that the Diya lighting was meant to establish a sense of solidarity among Indians while the opposition is trying to politicise the entire episode for their selfish goals.
The senior Congress leader and former Union Finance minister P Chidambaram, who was in jail a few months ago, on “corruption” charges, said that he had expected Modi to roll out a generous livelihood support package for the poor, Thiruvananthapuram Lok Sabha member, Shashi Tharoor, who is out on bail in the murder case of his wife, Sunanda Pushkar, demanded to know what the government was actually doing to contain the virus.
The senior Congress leader and Maharashtra Energy minister Nitin Raut on Friday evening came forward to extend his support for the “Opposition cause” by terming it as totally impractical. While opposing the PM’s call to switch off lights for a particular time, the Maharashtra minister pointed out that it would affect the emergency services, particularly the hospitals when the country is passing through an unprecedented “health problem.” He appealed to all for not turning off all the lights at the same time and said this can lead to a grid failure and affect emergency services, including hospitals. While explaining it he said that putting off the lights together at the same time can lead to a huge difference in demand and supply. Due to the lockdown, the demand has already decreased from 23,000 megawatt to 13,000 megawatt in the state as factory units are not operating. If all lights are put off at the same time, it can lead to a potential blackout, which will also affect the emergency services. It may take up to 12-16 hours to restore services. In a fight against coronavirus pandemic, electricity is an important tool, the minister pointed out.
On the other hand, the former Maharashtra energy minister and senior BJP leader, Chandrashekhar Bawankule, claimed that switching off all the lights at a time would not lead to a grid failure. “Raut is misleading people of the country,” he accused and added that Modi’s appeal to light a candle will boost the morale of people amid lockdown. Vishwas Pathak, a former Director of MSEB, said that the Maharashtra Energy minister was making such a statement on the basis of “WhatsApp” and without any homework. “There will be no breakdown of Grid following the switching off lights for a particular time,” he further claimed.
Earlier in the month, Indians had taken in large numbers to their windows and balconies and even the streets to observe PM Modi’s call for beating plates and clapping at 5 PM on the Janata Curfew as a mark of appreciation for the health and medical personnel at the forefront of the COVID-19 fight. While the move was deemed a success by the government and received praise from other countries as well as the United Nations, many in the opposition had at the time slammed the idea. “Clapping doesn’t kill virus,” Tharoor had tweeted at the time.
Among the other opposition, prominent politicians who opposed Modi at this juncture include the Congress leader Adhir Ranjan Choudhury and Mahua Moitra of Trinamul Congress, who had contested the emotional moral boosting appeal of the PM to dispel the darkness and gloom brought about by the outbreak of the novel coronavirus through the innovative action.
Addressing the country via a video message, Modi on Friday asked Indians for nine minutes of their time on Sunday at 9 pm, April 5. He urged people to turn off lights in their homes and instead light candles and flash torches or their mobile phones in order to shun the “darkness” of COVID-19. While urging the people, he also lauded the discipline exhibited by Indians during the 21-day lockdown imposed by the government to check the spread of coronavirus.
The unfortunate part is that when Prime Minister Modi continues to interact with various stakeholders in India’s fight against COVID-19, the Opposition targets him for the “politics of vote bank” at the cost of interest of the country. Prime Minister interacts with over 200 people on a daily basis which includes phone calls to various State Governors, Chief Ministers, and Health Ministers to get first-hand feedback on India’s fight against the COVID-19 menace.
In order to prepare the country to deal with the COVID-19, Modi in his address to the Nation on the 19th of March urged the people to voluntarily participate in the Janta Curfew for 14 Hours from 7 AM to 9 PM on the 22nd of March 2020. While preparing the nation successfully in an effort to maintain Social Distance, the Prime Minister in his address to the nation on the 24th March, has appealed for a 3-week lockdown as it is the only known effective measure in controlling the spread of the virus. He gave to the nation his two-pronged mantra of “Resolve and Restraint” in order to fight the Corona Virus. In his address, he requested the people against panic buying and assured them of the constant supply of essential goods.
To deal with the economic challenges caused by the pandemic, Prime Minister announced the creation of ‘COVID-19 Economic Response Task Force’ under the Union Finance Minister. The Task Force will consult stakeholders, take feedback, on the basis of which decisions will be taken to meet the challenges. The Task Force will also ensure the implementation of the decisions taken to meet these challenges. Modi also urged the business community and higher-income groups to look after the economic needs of those from lower-income groups, from whom they take various services, urging them not to cut their salary on the days they are unable to render the services due to inability to come to the workplace. He stressed on the importance of humanity during such times.
Keeping in mind the need for having a dedicated national fund with the primary objective of dealing with any kind of emergency or distress situation, like posed by the COVID-19 pandemic, and to provide relief to the affected, a public charitable trust under the name of ‘Prime Minister’s Citizen Assistance and Relief in Emergency Situations Fund’ (PM CARES Fund)’ has been set up. Why opposition parties are not talking about these steps, taken by Modi to tackle the situation?
By doing only criticism, the opposition parties are again not only weakening the country for the sake of politics but also demoralising the people of India, who are living with panic and anxiety because of the deadly virus. Modi might go. India will remain. The opposition should not weaken our nation to strengthen their politics. When Panic and fear are the bigger problem than the virus, the petty politics of the Opposition can wait.
The Congress and other opposition parties cannot see the Prime Minister’s decisions to help the poor and boost economy amid the lockdown to combat the coronavirus because it is blinded by its “anti-national” outlook. When the nation is united under Modi in its efforts to combat the pandemic, the outcry by the Congress and some other parties show their “ideological bankruptcy”. To talk such senseless things even during this hour of crisis highlight their conspiracy to divide the country.
Its still mystery that why the opposition parties are not supporting Modi in this crucial crisis. They must support Modi’s unprecedented announcement of a nation-wide lockdown for 21 days to fight the coronavirus pandemic. The state exists precisely because, when needed, decisions like this can be taken to save lives.
Yet, at this stage, we must check our oppositional instinct and support the PM’s decision for lockdown. It should not be merely verbal support. We should actively work towards the successful implementation of this lockdown. This is not the moment for adversarial politics. India needs both the government and the opposition to face this crisis.