Image making in Indian politics was conventionally based on the claims of welfare policies and developmental projects introduced and implemented by the leaders who were in power. The welfare schemes and development initiatives were considered one of the indicators to evaluate the performance of leaders in democracy for a few decades. It is considered as the distribution of democratic resources to its stakeholders i.e. people are the main function of the Indian states. The Coronavirus broke out in India, created a new trend in Indian politics that may be called 'medicalization of politics’. Due to this new turn, initiated by Coronavirus intervention in human history, we are evaluating the performance of our chief ministers and other political leaders based on their performance to curb and control the infection with strict implementation of lockdown and sensitive handling of poor, migrants and daily wage workers who are suffering due to the lockdown.
Chief ministers like Arvind Kejriwal, Vijayan, Ashok Gehlot, Yogi Adityanath, Bhupesh Baghel are being appreciated by people going beyond political commitments, ideological positioning and party affiliations. It is a new turn in the public perception of receiving politics of democracy in India. The case in point is Uttar Pradesh and its CM Yogi Adityanath in the context of the 'medicalization of politics'.
Adityanath is always targeted by a section of media for his Hindutva-loaded stereotypical image, which sometimes pushes back his performances as CM of Uttar Pradesh. It is true that he combines religion, development and politics together sometimes in his own way. But his performance in the battle against Coronavirus shows that he is handling this situation as an effective and strict administrator, sensitive for marginals, poor and migrants who are suffering in this lockdown; and reframing UP society to make it able to fight the pandemic. On the one hand, he is successfully reshaping medical infrastructure of the state and making it quickly responsive to fight Coronavirus, trying to increase the figure of testing in the state, stopping the expansion of pandemics by creating containment zones, evolving excellent coordination between various government departments and making teams for effective implementation of government decisions. His administration is taking strong action against those who are violating the law and order.
Adityanath is trying hard to save people of the state from the pandemics. In his own model. he has also added sensitive welfarism for needy people, migrants and poor.
When the Lockdown started and the laborers were rendered jobless, he emerged as the first chief minister who announced Rs 1,000 labour maintenance support. The UP government also announced to give free ration to the needy people. He also announced various support measures for peasants and ordered to pay minimum support price to the peasants in the harvesting season. He also ordered government agencies, mandi samities to purchase corps from the peasants from their fields as much as possible.
However, his strong action against all those people who are breaking law and order, violating lockdown, minimizing political intervention is helping him take a quick administrative response against Coronavirus.
The reason I refer to it as 'medicalization of politics; is precisely because it changed the indicators to evaluate the performance of leaders in Indian politics. Medical infrastructure, medical workforce, seva bhava (sense of service) for the marginalized have emerged as an indicator of good work done by the leaders. The caste, religion, region and other primordial identities for opinion mobilizations became blurred at for some time in Indian society and politics.
(The author is the director of G.B. Pant Social Science Institute, Allahabad. Views expressed are personal.)
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