Covid-19 management is a litmus test for every chief minister. This is a common challenge that every state in India is facing. With Prime Minister Narendra Modi withdrawing central control over most aspects of the pandemic management, the onus now lies on state heads. Here comes an opportunity for chief ministers of non-BJP ruled states to become a challenge for Modi in the 2024 elections.
Experts believe that the chief minister who manages the spread of COVID better will rule the minds of people devastated by the pandemic. Rajasthan chief minister Ashok Gehlot has a golden opportunity to position himself as an alternative to Narendra Modi.
So far, Gehlot has managed the pandemic better than many of his counterparts. Despite being a ‘non favoured’ Congress-ruled state, Rajasthan with close to two crore jabs features among the top two states as far as COVID vaccination is concerned. The number of cases and the fatality rate is also lower than the national average.
Modi’s famous line for Covid – Aapda mein Avsar- can come true for Gehlot, if he plays his cards well. An avid administrator, Gehlot has done better than many of his counterparts in containing the deadly coronavirus. Even during the second wave, his vaccination drive and management of medical resources are drawing appreciation from all quarters. Gehlot can easily be the challenger to Modi if the anti-BJP camp decides to put up a consensual candidate in the 2024 elections
With the myth around Modi magic shattering, the jadugar of Rajasthan should aggressively throw his hat in the ring. He has more than two and half years to outshine other leaders of the non-BJP camp and emerge as a consensual choice and a challenger to Modi if the opposition decides to put up a united front against the BJP.
For this, Gehlot, who relies more on local media, should reach out to national and global media to propagate his good work especially the recently launched Chiranjeevi Yojana, which offers health insurance of Rs 5 lakh to every citizen of the state. This unique scheme is a big boon during pandemic times especially for the poor sections of the society who can’t afford even basic treatment. In the run-up to the assembly elections, this scheme can draw votes for Congress.
What Gehlot should do to contain the second wave of COVID
Firstly, Gehlot should constitute a high-level panel for COVID management which should be headed by a health specialist. The panel should reach out to expatriate health specialists from countries that are doing exceptionally well in COVID management. The control of the panel should not be with bureaucrats who should be restricted to providing only administrative assistance. Health specialists and a panel of doctors should take decisions on how to control the spread of COVID in rural areas and provide critical health care in cities.
Trust put in health specialists and doctors will send a message that the disease is being managed scientifically and medically, not through political and social management. This will also help ramp up the health infrastructure and morale of health specialists who are being guided by bureaucrats.
(The writer is a social communication expert and political analyst)
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