On April 17, during an election rally in Bengal’s Asansol, Prime Minister Narendra Modi lauded the huge crowd that had gathered to hear him speak. He didn’t hide his delight. “I have seen such a (large) gathering for the first time. Wherever I look, I can only see people. You have done wonders,” he said during his speech. This was on a day when India saw more than 2.61 lakh fresh Coronavirus cases across the country and over 1,000 lives lost. It was the fourth consecutive day that had seen over two lakh cases as the second wave of the pandemic raged through India. “This is also the first time when such huge crowds of sick people and a record number of deaths have been seen,” Congress leader Rahul Gandhi responded to the PM through a scathing tweet.
Ironically, the same morning, Modi had spoken to a top seer, Hindu Dharma Acharya Sabha president Swami Avdheshanand Giri Ji Maharaj, appealing that the participation in the Kumbh mela—which had attracted lakhs of devotees—should be kept symbolic in view of the raging pandemic. This was 17 days after the Kumbh mela had started and many seers, doctors, policemen and administrative staff were infected by the coronavirus.