Popularity crumbles for Indian PM Modi as devastating COVID-19 outbreak continues – fr

Popularity crumbles for Indian PM Modi as devastating COVID-19 outbreak continues – fr

For a leader who sidestepped political challenges and enjoyed widespread popularity over the years in power, the devastating COVID-19 crisis hitting India may prove to be the most difficult to date for the prime minister Narendra Modi, analysts said.
Deep and seething anger is palpable in many parts of the country struggling to contain the effects of a brutal second wave, and much of that anger is directed at the government for failing to adequately prepare for a resurgence. virus.

Indian stories social media advocacy as oxygen supplies or antiviral treatments abound, as foreign aid planes keep landing in an attempt to prevent the collapse of the country’s ailing health system.

Baljeet Asthana was so upset after spending days trying to get an intensive care bed for her mother, who she said was slowly dying from lack of oxygen, that she recorded a video of herself in front of a New Delhi hospital in early May.

Asthana spoke directly to the Prime Minister, asking him what she should do.

“I would ask Modi-ji and Kejriwal to let me know,” she said into her phone’s camera, also referring to Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal.

She is polite and restrained but has a disturbing request for help.

“If you cannot advise me, then I would ask you to legalize compassionate murder in India. Because you have no idea what the ordinary citizen of India is going through right now, ”she said directly into the camera.

“We are struggling, we are struggling to get basic things like oxygen, medicine, hospitals,” Asthana continues regularly. “Let us die with dignity. ”

Rural areas affected

This anger is also spreading to more rural areas as they rise under the pressure of daily infection rates.

India has reported more than 300,000 new infections every day for more than three weeks, and the country accounted for half of the cases reported globally last week, according to the World Health Organization. Experts believe the official toll of cases and deaths is grossly underestimated.

In Uttar Pradesh, India’s most populous state, which was particularly affected by the devastating second wave, the government’s response is despised.

A man, his voice rising in anger outside a hospital in Meerut town after losing his niece to the virus, hurls insults and slurs at Modi’s Bharatiya Janata party for claiming to be a superpower.

A man from Meerut yells and swears in front of a video camera, decrying Modi’s political party for not getting medical supplies like oxygen. (Laundry / YouTube)

“What kind of superpower can’t even find oxygen for its people? He asks, waving an oxygen mask in front of the camera documenting it for the Newslaundry investigative website.

“As people suffer, some of that suffering certainly translates into anger against political leaders,” said Yamini Aiyar, chairman of the New Delhi-based think tank Center for Policy Research.

“We have fallen into political complacency”

Aiyar said it was well known that India spends much less than any other comparable economy on its health care system, around 1% of its GDP, and that the country’s health infrastructure “cracks if it doesn’t.” is not broken ”.

And yet the Indian government has spent no time strengthening it to prepare for a possible second wave of an unpredictable virus.

“We rather fell into the trap of assuming there was such a thing as Indian exceptionalism,” she told CBC News. The first wave of the pandemic did not hit India as hard as public health experts feared or as hard as other countries.

“We have fallen into political complacency. ”

Modi said at a virtual World Economic Forum summit in January that India had defeated the virus and “saved humanity from a great catastrophe by effectively containing the crown.”

Three months later, India had the highest number of infections in the world.

Family members of Vijay Raju, who died of COVID-19, mourn before his cremation at a crematorium in the village of Giddenahalli on the outskirts of Bengaluru, India on May 13. (Samuel Rajkumar / Reuters)

Aiyar said many Indians feel the warning signs of a second wave have been ignored and that Modi, who spent much of March and early April campaigning in crucial elections in the state and to organize rallies in front of thousands of people, has been reported missing as a nation. is going through a health crisis.

“We see an absent prime minister,” Aiyar said.

She said it was particularly striking for a politician who built his brand by engaging supporters directly through non-traditional means such as social media platforms, instead of through media and press conferences. (Modi did not hold a press conference in his seven-year tenure.)

“What we are seeing instead is deep silence and I would go so far as to say deep callousness on the part of our political leaders in times of national crisis,” Aiyar said.

“His silence is something that I think exaggerated the feeling of anger and betrayal. ”

WATCH | Growing anger at Indian Prime Minister Modi as COVID-19 crisis continues:

A leader whose popularity seemed virtually unassailable is now facing an outcry over his response to COVID-19, with scenes of the country’s healthcare system failing, crematoriums overwhelmed and Indians pleading for basic medical supplies. 2:12

‘A war foot’

Modi told a virtual conference to farmers on Friday that his government was ” on a war footing“Trying to contain the virus. He mentioned that the virus was spreading rapidly in rural areas.

“All government departments, all resources, our armed forces, our scientists, everyone is working day and night to counter COVID together,” he said.

It was the first time he was referring to the effects of the second wave on the Indian countryside, where health services are not robust.

Modi gestures as he speaks at a rally during the ongoing Phase 4 of the West Bengal assembly election on April 10. (Diptendu Dutta / AFP via Getty Images)

Modi has not given the country a televised address since April 20, when he ruled out a national lockdown such as the one he imposed when the virus spread in March 2020, preferring localized containment strategies.

He called on Indians to take public health measures seriously and to exercise “discipline” to “win the battle against the crown”.

But that speech came just days after he staged a massive political rally in West Bengal, where his party was trying to win state elections, and marveled at how many people it could see in the crowd. in front of him, as infections increased. in the countryside.

Modi has also been criticized for not bothering to discourage millions from descending on the holy city of Haridwar to take a dip in the Ganges, for the Hindu Kumbh Mela festival in March and April.

Although he then urged the festival to end early, thousands of people were then confirmed to be infected.

A man wearing a face mask takes a sacred dip in the Ganges during the ongoing Kumbh Mela religious festival in Haridwar on April 12. Thousands of COVID-19 infections have been confirmed among the participants. (Xavier Galiana / AFP via Getty Images)

Consequences for a “Teflon” leader?

While anecdotal evidence suggests there is deep anger on the streets of India, especially in urban areas, official polls are still scarce.

U.S. data firm Morning Consult, which also tracks 12 other global leaders, released figures that suggest Modi’s popularity fell sharply in April and is now at its lowest point in a year and a half.

“Modi is truly in uncharted political territory,” said Michael Kugelman, senior associate for South Asia at the Woodrow Wilson Center.

“He has never been so strongly criticized by so many people as he is today,” Kugelman said, stressing how unusual such a position is for the politician he considers “a man of Teflon.”

“Political challenges and political vulnerability do not stick to him.” He manages to recover. »

A woman cries after seeing the body of her son who died of coronavirus disease, outside a morgue at a COVID-19 hospital in New Delhi on May 12. (Adnan Abidi / Reuters)

And Modi is still the most popular world leader followed by polling firm, one point more than Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador of Mexico and 29 points more than Justin Trudeau, as of May 11.

Modi’s current approval rating is 63%, according to Morning Consult, with his disapproval at 31.

This is a key sign that it is too early to tell if this current crisis will have a long-term effect on Modi.

“His numbers are still pretty high,” said Sadanand Dhume, a researcher at the American Enterprise Institute, based in Washington. “About 65 percent is still a pretty good approval rating for a democratically elected leader. “

But Dhume insisted that criticism of his handling of the COVID-19 crisis is much harder for Modi and his government to sidestep because the pain is so personal and the evidence the country is struggling is overwhelming.

What matters, according to Dhume, is how long it takes India to bring its brutal second wave under control, as hospitals continue to report shortages of medical supplies and essential beds.

Modi’s brand was also shaken, along with her favorite image of a strong India.

India refused foreign aid for more than a decade, insisting it was self-sufficient, but that long-held position after the 2004 tsunami has now been overturned.

The country watches planes land filled with international coronavirus relief supplies that local officials struggle to distribute to where they need them most, as people use social media to scavenge their life-saving oxygen Lives.

Workers prepare medical supplies to be sent to India at the International Humanitarian City in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, May 9. (Abdel Hadi Ramahi / Reuters)

There may be short-term political consequences for Modi and his BJP party, but the next general election is still three years away.

Plenty of time for Modi and his advisers to focus on something else and for his popularity numbers to bounce back, Dhume said.

“They will do what they have already started to do, they will change the subject,” Dhume said.

“They will find something else to discuss and they hope that by the time the next general election is held people will have forgotten the horrors of 2020 and 2021.”


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