Sunday, May 9, 2021

Tone-deaf Indian government fans flames of COVID-19 crisis

Reading Time: 3 minutes 

India’s dire COVID-19 plight is a tale of two realities for Modi’s BJP government and its devotees. Even as the world looks on in horror at the severest escalation of the COVID-19 pandemic to date, the Indian government has buried its head in the sand, poking up momentarily only to tear down its detractors and stamp out PR spotfires. This has long been the approach of choice for Modi: to him, image is everything. In doing so however, Modi’s government has achieved only one remarkable feat: single-handedly destroying India’s global reputation, more so than any of its predecessors since the nation won independence in 1947.

This should be an uncontroversial statement. After all, part of the arsenal of PR weapons at Modi’s disposal is a complete denouncement of critical international commentary on his government. It is this weapon that was taken up by his supporters as international celebrities such as Rihanna recently commented on the plight of farmers in India, including eerily similar and seemingly orchestrated remarks by the hugely influential likes of Virat Kohli and Sachin Tendulkar, who, along with leading Bollywood personalities, stuck their collective proverbial middle fingers at the world.

The irony is stark. These are the same supporters who feted former US President Donald Trump with 120,000 raving fans in a newly-constructed cricket stadium in Ahmedabad (since renamed the Narendra Modi stadium). These are the same supporters who exulted when their leader claimed victory over COVID-19, braying that other governments could learn from his example. And sadly, these are the same supporters who now grieve their loved ones, blind to the government’s hand in those deaths.

READ ALSO: India’s staggering COVID crisis could have been avoided

It is difficult to individualise the fanatics who underpin Modi’s voter base for two reasons: foremost is that Modi’s base remains enormous, and the country’s politics increasingly polarised and positional. Second is the stunning uniformity with which his supporters defend his government.

If there was ever written evidence of this groupthink, it was in the letter penned by the Indian High Commission to The Australian newspaper, in complaint against an article critical of Modi’s management of the COVID-19 pandemic. The letter may as well have been a comment by someone on Facebook; it was bereft of fact and echoed long-parroted claims which are now laughably untrue, including that the Indian government’s approach to the COVID pandemic is “universally acclaimed”, that the government has “probably saved hundreds of millions” of lives both in India and overseas, and that the surge “will be contained very soon”.

And yet, with apparently no semblance of self-awareness, Deputy High Commissioner P.S. Karthigeyan’s letter concludes with a perhaps unintentional acknowledgement that the war against the pandemic is “humanity’s common fight”.

This is the crux of the issue: the pandemic is global. In a global pandemic, there is no room for insularity or mediocrity. There is no room for navel-gazing or deflection. And there is certainly no room for a dereliction of duty by the highest office in the land. Yet in demanding that Twitter delete tweets critical of his government, in directing his diplomats to baselessly attack free foreign press, and in singularly focusing on his own grip on power, to the detriment of his citizens, Modi has wantonly disregarded not only these principles, but indeed his own promise: “I want this government to be criticised. Criticism makes democracy strong”.

If Modi thought it apt to claim credit when India seemed to be on top of its first wave of the coronavirus, he should now welcome with open arms any criticism as the country’s response falters. In stamping out and punishing criticism within the country, and in directing that foreign criticism be denounced and discredited, then by Modi’s own admission, all that is left is the tatters of democracy.

Whether Modi or his government will face any accountability for their colossal failures in managing the pandemic remains to be seen. For although the country’s recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic will require a gargantuan effort and will take many years, recovering from Modi’s brand of politics – and his lust for power – may just eclipse it, with the likes of Yogi Adityanath and Amit Shah waiting in the wings.

Democracy in India is hanging by a thread, much as was America’s a few months ago. India’s populace would do well to recognise that the world’s largest democracy is under siege – not from outside, but from within.

READ ALSO: Australia’s Indian community pitches in for COVID relief

Link up with us!

Indian Link News website: Save our website as a bookmark

Indian Link E-NewsletterSubscribe to our weekly e-newsletter

Indian Link Newspaper: Click here to read our e-paper

Indian Link app: Download our app from Apple’s App Store or Google Play and subscribe to the alerts


Twitter: @indian_link

Instagram: @indianlink

LinkedIn: linkedin.com/IndianLinkMediaGroup

- Advertisement -
Ritam Mitra
Ritam Mitra
Ritam is an award-winning journalist and lawyer based in Sydney. Ritam writes on domestic and global politics, human rights and social justice, and sport.

Related Articles


  1. Courageous and entirely accurate article, Ritam.

    The least we can all do right now is express our opinions without being trolled by stupid Bhakts.

    Kudos to Indian Link for publishing this and affording a forum for honest introspection.

    The Modi Govt has been an unmitigated disaster and no amount of PR or “alternate facts” can disguise that.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here

- Advertisement -


Ep 9: What do young Indians want from love?

Growing up in Indian culture, most of us know that love has never been as popular as marriage. Even in the movies, the main...

Ep 8: Indian links in Indigenous Australian poet Ali Cobby Eckermann’s...

To celebrate NAIDOC week 2020 (between 8-15 November) I spoke to Yakunytjatjara poet Ali Cobby Eckermann about her time in India where she taught...

Ep 7: In the case of Sushant Singh Rajput

  The torrid and high-octane Sushant Singh Rajput case has been fodder for Indian people and press for the last few months. The actor’s tragic...
- Advertisement -

Latest News

Things to remember this Mother’s Day

  This year on Mother’s Day, some of us may be able to give mum a hug in person - a gesture we will never...

Celebrity fundraiser aims to raise $1M for COVID relief in India

  A fundraiser hosted by Lara Dutta and Shayamal Vallabhjee is hoping to raise $1 million for COVID crisis relief in India. Across two hours, prominent...
may shows

6 Indian shows and movies to watch in May 2021

  Lava Ka Dhaava (Netflix) Were you a fan of Takeshi’s Castle? Javed Jaffrey is back with his hilarious commentary on Lava Ka Dhaava, a Hindi...

Between an oven and a hot place: My baking journey

  The warm smell of chocolate and vanilla wafted through our home as I sat licking the leftover cake batter. At 8 years old, I...
the disciple

Review: The Disciple (Netflix)

  Chaitanya Tamhane's new film The Disciple intricately weaves diverse threads. It talks of the state of Hindustani Classical music and its 'Guru-Shishya parampara'. There is...