The scenes from West Bengal are infuriating liberals. More precisely, it is the BJP’s massive success in pulling crowds to its events and campaign rallies that is bewildering opposition parties and its leaders. Citing the excuse of Covid-19 – liberals, opposition parties and their cheerleaders have ganged up against the saffron party, and begun demanding that all election rallies be banned considering the surge in infections which India is facing. Taken on face value, this suggestion of the opposition and its liberal courtiers is noble and humane. However, it is gigantically hypocritical as well.
Bihar went to polls last year, and the NDA was able to win the state. In the runup to the campaign for the Bihar polls kicking off, the BJP under PM Modi had suggested, along with the JD(U), that election rallies be held in virtual mode only, considering the prevalence of the pandemic. Back then, opposition parties had fought the idea they are today advocating. The opposition to virtual rallies was received from opposition parties in India alone. Liberals and mainstream media, of course, decided not to give BJP any credit for trying to prevent physical rallies for the Bihar polls.
Now, however, the Congress is of the opinion that virtual rallies should have been mandated for the West Bengal polls, apart from the elections in four other states which have already culminated. Gandhi spokesperson and Rajasthan chief minister Ashok Gehlot said, “On the one hand we ask people to follow Covid protocol and on the other hand crowd of lakhs of people continued to gather in election rallies and roadshows. It has been going on since Bihar elections…If politicians had wanted, they could have stopped the crowd by using options like virtual rallies.”
If politicians had wanted, they could have stopped the crowd by using options like virtual rallies.
— Ashok Gehlot (@ashokgehlot51) April 16, 2021
Last year, when the EC had called for consultations over the prospect of an only-digital/virtual campaign for the Bihar polls, opposition parties like the Congress, RJD and Left had outraged like there was no tomorrow. Such parties argued that the concept “is socially and economically discriminatory” and, thus, against the “principle of equality” and “violative of a level-playing field in the democratic exercise” as virtual campaigns could exclude a large section of the rural people and the poor who have no access to digital connectivity.
The stand of the opposition parties and liberals now, during the crucial West Bengal polls which the BJP must necessarily win shows that the concerns are not health-related, but purely political in nature. By trying to derail physical campaigns when the BJP has invested so much in them, the vested interest groups are trying to ensure that the saffron party does not win. Sadly for them, the EC is in no mood to consider their mindless suggestions.