The Indian health system is collapsing under the weight of the pandemic: thousands of people are dying, breaking sad records every 24 hours.
Videos are circulating of overcrowded morgues and grieving relatives waiting in front of full hospitals. This tragedy was avoidable and is largely the fault of an incompetent and blustering government. Yet, judging by the fate of other far-right politicians – Brazil’s Jair Bolsonaro, Britain’s Boris Johnson, Hungary’s Viktor Orbán, the Philippines’ Rodrigo Duterte – Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi is likely to pay a reduced political price for his missteps.
A first and decisive factor for this surge was the risk underestimated by Prime Minister Narendra Modi. He did not react to early warnings and, on the contrary, confirmed the legislative elections held in the last month in four states and one district. According to Nicola Missaglia, Research Fellow and head of the India Desk at Ispi (Institute for International Policy Studies): “There has been an interest on the part of the government to aim for political consensus. Modi has been at the forefront of the election campaign, with rallies and rallies”. And there was also the opening of the Kumbh Mela religious festival, which involved tens of thousands of people in rituals and celebrations with total indifference to the anti-coup rules. “It was a very important event, the opening of which was “interested” since it is a Hindu festival and therefore involves the premier’s electoral base,” Missaglia explains. However, this move does not seem to have paid off, given the results of the polls announced on 2 May. Modi’s party, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP or Indian People’s Party), in fact, fared worse than expected, particularly in the state of West Bengal.
Despite the fact that India is among the world’s top producers of vaccines, the national campaign is proceeding ‘slowly’ and this is another component in the health crisis. In fact, so far, the country ranks third after China and the US in the number of injections, with over 157 million vaccines made. But it is the proportion to the total population that makes the overall picture darker: only 10% of Indians have received the first dose and about 2% both. In February, Modi thought he could even become a sort of “world pharmacy”, shipping vaccines produced in his own territory mainly to developing nations, but the second wave has overwhelmed even his intention.