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The opposition of India seems to be following the scorched-earth policy with a twist. Scorched earth policy is a military strategy that aims to destroy anything that might be useful to the enemy. For the opposition, the BJP/NDA Government is an enemy. The plan is simple, oppose & question everything that the BJP does. Question the army, question the air force, question the Supreme Court & the latest clearly is questioning the scientists. What is their plan? Are they so naive that they believe that this strategy will help them beat the BJP Government at the centre?
After every such move, the opposition suffers a defeat bigger than before. They lost UP when they questioned the surgical strikes, they lost the Lok Sabha after they questioned the Balakot airstrikes and the Rafale deal in the Supreme Court.
So why is the opposition questioning the efficacy of the vaccines now? Don’t they understand that this will further dent their electoral ambitions? Or maybe they have given up the national elections and the plan is to spread anarchy by using street politics as a veto. The beauty of street politics is power without responsibility. Using flawed numbers to represent the entire country. Can 15,000 farmers from 2 States represent the more than 12 crore farmers of India?
International publications are used as propaganda machines to spread the manufactured outrage and apply pressure on our lawmakers. Justin Trudeau’s unresearched comments on farmers protests is a textbook instance of this strategy.
BJP has done well to counter these street protests. It got lucky during CAA protests as the protesters had to call off their protests due to COVID-19 & so far in the farmers’ protests, they have managed them well, engaging with farmers rather than being antagonistic and aggressive.
The biggest challenge for BJP will however be managing the rumours around the COVID-19 vaccine. Anti-vaccine culture is not very common in India but the opposition has already started rumours regarding the vaccines. Fake WhatsApp messages, fake photos, fake stories talking about the side effects and even fake religious angles.
A few days ago, some clerics in Indonesia had a grave concern. Whether the Covid-19 vaccine was permitted in Islamic law? There was a false concern that vaccines used pork derived gelatin as a stabilizer to ensure that vaccines remain safe, this despite the spokespersons of Pfizer, Moderna and AstraZeneca stating that pork was not a part of the vaccines. This fear-mongering is not new especially for the minority community. In 2003 five northern Nigerian states boycotted the oral polio vaccine due to fears that it was unsafe. The boycotts proved a huge setback for polio eradication. Polio cases in Nigeria jumped from 202 in 2002 to 1143 in 2006 and Nigerian strains of the virus spread across Africa. The boycotts allegedly came about in response to rumours, endorsed by high-ranking public figures, that OPV polio vaccine was an American conspiracy to spread HIV and cause infertility in Muslim girls.
Back home in India in the 1990s there was similar false propaganda against Polio, especially in the Muslim community. It took years of perseverance and a positive campaign of the Government to convince everyone to get vaccinated. We all remember Mr Amitabh Bachchan saying “Doo Bund polio Ki” in his baritone voice; it surely has a great impact.
With COVID-19, there is a different challenge. The Government needs to vaccinate at least 30% of its population for India to have herd immunity against the disease. The economy will recover but not show the upward growth that India is looking for as long these lockdowns and curfews are imposed. Supply and manufacturing will only increase when the labour force can resume work as in the pre-COVID era. Trains have to run, cinemas have to open, the migrant population that has moved out of cities temporarily must return to work.
To achieve all this in a few months in the face of the opposition’s scorched earth strategy of disrupting all reforms will be a challenge that BJP has to take up. Imagine the chaos if enough people buy the opposition’s campaign and refuse to get vaccinated. The opposition’s plan seems to be simple: disrupt and ensure that high growth does not return. Then maybe they can win an election or two.