Coronavirus Has Birthed a New Rivalry Between India’s States, And It’s Not Pretty


Coronavirus Has Birthed a New Rivalry Between India’s States, And It’s Not Pretty

Illustration: Mitesh Parmar

Last week, Maharashtra’s Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray said that in addition to the coronavirus, India was also fighting a second, equally deadly communal virus. He was alluding to the growing trend in India of painting all Indian Muslims with the same brush after the Tablighi Jamaat event in Delhi turned out to be a coronavirus hotspot. Now, as the number of cases in Maharashtra continue to surge, having crossed over 1,000 positive coronavirus patients, there is a third virus on the scene – the virus of petty politics.

The tweet above is only one of many, as Maharashtra’s status as the state with the most coronavirus cases in India has given many Twitter users the opportunity to mock Thackeray’s leadership. On the other side of the argument, there are many who have commended the Maharashtra CM’s handling of the coronavirus crisis, with his regular briefings and measured approach to dealing with the situation coming in for praise.

But this is Twitter we are talking about, where you just can’t have good things. For every positive post, there will be others making snide remarks or peddling negativity in the guise of memes. A weird trend has emerged where Twitter users are more interested in comparing the figures of positive cases and deaths of different states, and using those figures as a yardstick by which to judge the efficacy of the CM and their political party.

Of course, this is a pan-India phenomenon. It’s not just Uddhav Thackeray who has had to face these sorts of inane comparisons. One popular example doing the rounds of Twitter pits the state of Gujarat’s “sanghi model” against the state of Kerala’s “commie model”, with the supposedly “anti-national” Kerala government coming out of the exchange looking the better of the two.

However, such behaviour is immensely counter-productive. Political affiliation and allies are of no consequence when dealing with such a highly contagious disease like the coronavirus. It can spread between ideologically opposed groups just as easily as it can between like-minded people. There needs to be co-operation on all levels – between the public and the state governments, as well as the state governments and the central government. There may come a time when it is profitable to add a political spin to current events, but it is not the present.

Hopefully, the people mocking their state CMs for belonging to a different party than the one they support will not have to rely on the same governments for treatment. But until the threat of coronavirus has passed, petty politics must wait.