Never in recent history has India faced a challenge, which is either affecting, or has the potential to affect each state, each economic sector, each organisation, each business, and each individual. The response must take into account this scale of the crisis. And one key precondition for a concerted response is political unity.
India is a democracy. This is its strength. And it also means that on any issue, at any moment, there will be differences between citizens and political formations. On the handling of the coronavirus disease (Covid-19) too, the Opposition is within its rights to ask questions about the government’s initial response, current strategies, and protocols being put in place. In fact, it must do so, to bring forth perspectives that may be missing. The government, too, is duty-bound to remain accountable and explain — to citizens and to the parliamentary Opposition — its plans. This vibrancy of debate is important, especially because it is through consistent feedback and constructive criticism that policy measures can be refined.
But this must not translate into an issue of political contestation. Indian citizens, despite their political and ideological differences and contrasting views about different leaders and issues, are in no mood for petty disputes and point-scoring on Covid-19. The ruling dispensation must refrain from any premature self-congratulatory messages about how it has dealt with the crisis. The Opposition must not pat itself on the back for having warned about the crisis, and make doomsday predictions. Treat this as a national emergency. And just like in an emergency, work together. In Kerala, both the chief minister and the leader of the Opposition together, through a video conference, addressed local bodies about the crisis and measures needed. India’s political class must emulate this example.