by Harish Gupta, National Editor, Lokmat Group
Why Pawar, Nitish missing in Action
Sharad Pawar had declared with a big fanfare to lend NCP’s support to the Trinamool Congress headed by Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee. The Maratha strongman had also declared that he would campaign for the TMC candidates in West Bengal. The Congress was peeved at Pawar’s decision to support Mamata as NCP is sharing power in Maharashtra. The NCP supremo is also desirous to play a more active role in the UPA at the national level too. Realizing the sensitivities involved, NCP explained that Mamata Banerjee is close to the “Saheb” and the latter will only address a couple of rallies as a symbol of support. But Pawar could not make it in March as he was busy in resolving the crisis that erupted after Wazegate culminating in the resignation of Home Minister Anil Deshmukh. Later, Pawar developed severe abdomen pain leading to his admission at a private hospital. He was advised complete rest before he could be operated upon as his parameters were not fit to be operated upon. He cannot campaign anymore and there is no prospect of his being in action in West Bengal in near future either.
Nitish, Tejashwi keep away too
Sharad Pawar is not alone missing in action. Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar and RJD leader Tejashwi Yadav are also keeping completely away in this round of Assembly polls. Though the Janata Dal (United) is contesting the West Bengal polls dumping its alliance partner BJP, Kumar has chosen to keep away and not campaign. On the other hand, the RJD is supporting the TMC despite being a partner of Congress in Bihar. But Tejashwi is also looking the other way and has not for campaigning. The JD (U) doesn’t explain why it has left its candidates in the lurch in West Bengal. However, a close confidante of Nitish Kumar said he is avoiding traveling West Bengal to keep the BJP and Mamta Banerjee in good humour. Mamata has a fractured leg and Nitish Kumar doesn’t want to rub salt on her wounds in the given situation. After all, Nitish Kumar has also been nursing national ambitions like Sharad Pawar. The Congress is also confused as it is hand-in-glove with the Left in West Bengal while fighting with the CPM in Kerala. Secondly, Rahul Gandhi has not rolled out his program to campaign in West Bengal so far either.
Priyanka goes missing too!!
Priyanka Gandhi Vadra has gone into self quarantine after her husband Robert Vadra tested positive of Covid almost a week ago. The jolt came when she was drawing huge crowds during her rallies in Kerala. According to Congress insiders, she was able to connect better with the voters due to her style of campaigning causing some anxiety in some party quarters. Though Priyanka has now been tested negative, she continues to stay home. Whatever may be the reasons; her absence is a setback to the party as most of the party’s 30 star campaigners were missing in action including Capt Amrinder Singh, Navjot Singh Sidhu to name a few. Even Rahul Gandhi has been missing in action in West Bengal, at least until writing this column. Perhaps, it’s a season of leaders missing in action.
Missing frontline workers for Jab
The Prime Minister’s Task Force on Vaccination is burning midnight oil as Health and Frontline Workers (HFW) are missing in getting themselves vaccinated. Of the 3 crores HFWs only 65% came forward for the first vaccine dose during the past 90 days while 50% came for the second dose. The government is worried about these missing Covid warriors and vaccine hesitancy has clearly among them. It is worrisome as they are directly dealing with the deadly disease. The government toyed with the idea of imposing certain restrictions on those refusing to take the jab as suggested by experts and Indian Medical Association too. But these are tough times and the government cannot risk taking disciplinary action against them for refusing to take the jab. Dr Randeep Guleria, Director AIIMS and member of the PM’s Task Force, has been on record to say that this hesitancy may be because they want to wait and read more. He did not elaborate but many are worried as the government is not sharing the Adverse Events Following Immunization (AEFI) data. Though the government told Parliament that 89 adverse events took place and none of them was due to vaccination. But it has not shared the causes behind such deaths so far except in 13 cases.