Two things have been pretty much unstoppable in India—coronavirus transmission and the election juggernaut. And political parties, in states where the Assembly polls were and are underway, have contributed their part to this explosion of Covid, clearly showing their insensitivity during a catastrophe like no other in recent memory. It’s another thing none of these outfits—howsoever big or small they are—would own it up. As a result, political campaigns and rallies by leaders mobilising thousands of people have gone on showing contempt to the very cause of Covid-appropriate behaviour they espouse.
Odisha Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik, though, has chosen a different path. The BJD boss set an example by deciding his party will no longer hold campaign meetings or public rallies for the bypolls to the Pipili Assembly constituency. The by-election was necessitated after the ruling party’s MLA Pradeep Maharathy passed away last year in October. Originally scheduled to be held on April 17, the poll had to be postponed after Congress nominee Ajit Mangaraj succumbed to Covid on April 14.
As the EC reset the date to May 13, Naveen came out with an announcement that his party would do nothing that would endanger people’s lives. He also urged the EC and other parties to reconsider the duration and modes of campaigning. His detractors might call it posturing but how many political leaders would risk it? In fact, he had switched to virtual campaigning when the by-poll process was underway before being adjourned under unfortunate circumstances.
As the country was in the midst of a vaccine shortage crisis, Naveen was also among the first to call for a liberalised vaccination policy. And two days before the Centre announced vaccination for all above 18, the Odisha CM had shot off a letter to PM Narendra Modi seeking vaccines be made available in the open market so that those who are able to afford it can buy their shots while the government focused on the vulnerable sections of society. In desperate times like these when the country bemoans declining political maturity and civility, Naveen has stood out from the pack.