Editorial

Time to refocus

| Updated on May 02, 2021

TMC activists celebrating their party’s victory in West Bengal elections   -  PTI

With elections behind us, it is now time to save lives and contain the pandemic

Sunday’s Assembly election results that doused the BJP’s ambitions in the fiercely-fought battle in West Bengal, returned incumbents in Assam and Kerala, and heralded the coming of age of MK Stalin as a leader in Tamil Nadu with a mild booster for the BJP-led coalition in neighbouring Puducherry are very significant indeed. From a national perspective, the Bengal result is a check on the BJP juggernaut; for the Congress which lost Puducherry, it is a continuation of its steady decimation with no alternative to the BJP nationally; for the Left, which is now a non-entity in Bengal, the re-election in Kerala beating incumbency must be satisfying but it confirms its status as a regional player. Meanwhile, triumphalism ruled on Sunday as the results started pouring in. Amid the catastrophic spread of the Covid-19 pandemic, the least that the political parties, which undoubtedly contributed to the surge by holding large campaign rallies, could have done was to not exacerbate the situation by gathering celebratory crowds. To the flocks of TMC and DMK workers thronging party offices in Kolkata and Chennai, a strict warning was in order but alas, that was not to be.

The only party that assumed solemnity for the day was the BJP, which had a lot to be solemn about having failed in its single-minded effort to wrest Bengal from Mamata Banerjee. The BJP’s exhaustive campaign seems to have been outdone by a strong dose of welfarism, clever candidate-selection and Banerjee’s David-versus-Goliath style counter to the BJP’s machismo. It is early days yet to interpret the results as a reflection of the Covid-19 impact on political trends, but the reality is that the momentum of the BJP’s campaign did slow towards the last phases of the Bengal elections as public anger against large political rallies started mounting.

In Kerala the Left Front government’s performance not just on the Covid-19 front but also its tackling of the Nipah virus outbreak in 2018 and two consecutive years of floods seem to have favoured the incumbents. For the first time in decades, Kerala is set to return an incumbent government to power. Similarly, in Assam, a stable government steered by the BJP’s chief strategist, Himanta Biswa Sarma, has navigated the party through the anger and confusion created by the exclusion of a majority of its voters in the NRC. The BJP in Assam has wrested the Congress’s voter base through populist measures such as the Orunodoi scheme, providing a pension of ₹800 to women which the BJP has promised to increase to ₹3,000 in its manifesto. In Tamil Nadu, the elections herald the emergence of MK Stalin as a leader. He will be watched closely especially because he’s taking over at a most difficult time for the State. Indeed, it is now time for all those elected to refocus from politics to the pandemic; there is no time to be lost in triumphalism. There is a job to do and a challenging one at that.

Published on May 02, 2021

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