India’s hard right prime minister Narendra Modi is finally feeling the heat after weeks of Covid-19 devastating the country.
The terrible toll of infection and death, coupled with revelations of his government’s failure to respond to the virus’s second wave, is spreading revulsion among ordinary people.
Millions of people in the key state of West Bengal this week voted against Modi’s BJP party, and its politics of hatred and division.
The party had poured money and hundreds and organisers into the state, which for decades was known as a bastion of Communism.
Modi and all the best-known BJP politicians all rushed there for huge election rallies, even as Covid-19 was spreading in India at the fastest rate in the world.
If the BJP could win in West Bengal it would decimate all political opponents.
But things did not go according to plan.
Fierce government critic and incumbent state chief minister, Mamata Banerjee, won more than 200 out of 294 seats in the regional assembly. The BJP managed just 80.
And elsewhere the party also fared badly.
“It’s a slap on the face of the BJP,” said Gilles Verniers, a political scientist at Ashoka University. “The message is that the Modi brand on its own is probably fading, and is insufficient to compensate for the lack of proper organisation and governance.”
Now, as Modi appears to be hitting the rocks, some of his supporters appear to be jumping ship.
Adar Poonawalla, the much hated head of Serum Institute of India, attacked the Indian government for its failures.
Poonawalla has been widely targeted for hiking the price of his Covishield vaccine—and admitting he wants to make “super profits”.
Keen to deflect attention, he turned his fire on the Modi government, blaming it for the failing vaccination programme.
He told the Financial Times newspaper last weekend that he felt “victimised” and that Modi had ordered just 21 million vaccinations in February. He said Modi gave no indication that more would be needed.A few weeks later Modi panicked and tried to order another 110 million doses but the company could not keep up, said Poonawalla.
The government’s failure to track the virus and to prepare for a new wave is to blame for the collapse of the countries healthcare systems he added
Indian vaccine manufacturers say it will be months before they can deal with the vaccine shortage.
Poonawalla and India’s big pharma firms have long been supporters of the BJP’s neoliberal economic programme.
Now, as anger with the Modi regime spreads and more ruling class figures speak out against him, it is vital that the left take advantage.
Election campaigning effectively suspended many of the popular campaigns that rocked Modi’s regime.
Now they must return to the streets with new confidence.
Despite the drumbeat of propaganda that the world is “ready to return to normal”, the number of global coronavirus cases continues to rise to terrible new heights.
New figures released from the World Health Organisation (WHO) showed that there had been nearly 5,750,000 cases reported in a single week.
That was the highest number since the pandemic began and an increase of over 450,000 on the week before.
And the next week was set to see similar figures.
It’s not just India that is driving the rise. Brazil, with more than 14.7 million confirmed coronavirus cases and more than 400,000 deaths, continues to have the highest daily rate of Covid-19 deaths per million in the world.
And there are fears that Africa might soon face similar horrors to India.
“What is happening in India cannot be ignored by our continent,” John Nkengasong, director of the Africa Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said last week.
“We do not have enough healthcare workers, we do not have enough oxygen.”
South Africa’s health minister, Zweli Mkhize, warned last week of a third wave of infections.
Covid has already killed 55,000 people in South Africa, according to official figures. Excess mortality statistics suggest the actual toll may be two or even three times higher.
So far only 300,000 health workers, out of a total of 1.25 million, have been vaccinated in South Africa.
Ruling classes in the US, Europe, central and south America press on with proclamations of imminent economic resurgence.That endangers their own populations.
But it’s also a national short-sightedness that will abandon poorer parts of the world to mass death.
More than one billion doses of Covid-19 vaccines have been administered globally.
But 82 percent of them were given in high and upper-middle income countries. WHO director general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said last week that just 0.3 percent of all vaccines administered so far were given to people in low-income countries.
Yet governments including in the US and Britain continue to block moves to lift vaccine patents.
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