The 170-km padayatra of the Karnataka Congress, ostensibly to highlight delays in implementation of the Mekedatu water project, was clearly a misadventure. Throwing all caution and Covid-19 precautions to the wind, Congress leaders led the rally, unmasked and uncaring, which triggered acrossthe- board condemnation.
The Karnataka High Court, now seized of the matter, has made stinging observations against both the Congress and the BJP government, and spurred the authorities into stopping the march. The political skirmish, in the midst of a raging Covid-19 third wave, is sure to see more drama. With its defiance and mockery of restrictions, the Congress has painted itself into a corner and lost its chance of taking on the government on management of the pandemic.
It has also lost public sympathy, especially with its puerile statements that Covid infections are a creation of the government, and that the Omicron variant is benign. At a time when the state is clocking over 25,000 plus fresh daily cases and the positivity rate has crossed 12%, political leaders ought to refrain from such irresponsible behaviour. Such open flouting of norms only reinforces the public belief that rules, though formulated by the ruling classes, are meant only for the masses.
The common citizen, who comes up against watchful marshals on every street and is fined if the mask slips, cannot be expected to support such transgressions. Not to say that BJP leaders are beyond fault—the chief minister has himself gone maskless at many public functions, like the vaccination launch for teenagers, inviting censure, while other leaders have also participated in festivals and rallies. No wonder leaders come across as preachy and fake when they ask the public to mask up.
Yet, the padayatra seems like a minor aberration, if we are to consider that Assembly elections are around the corner in five states. Remember, election rallies in the midst of a devastating second wave last year in West Bengal and elsewhere had a cascading effect. While more restrictions have now been placed by the Election Commission, politics in the time of a pandemic is at best avoided.