Minister of External Affairs S Jaishankar on Wednesday said that elections cannot be stopped in a democratic country like India amid criticism that the recent Assembly polls were held even as a second wave of the coronavirus pandemic surged to critical levels.
Experts have blamed the Narendra Modi government and the Election Commission of India for allowing rallies in which large crowds flouted physical distancing rules and did not wear masks amid record Covid-19 cases and deaths.
Assembly elections in Tamil Nadu, Puducherry, Kerala, Assam and West Bengal, as well as bye-elections and local elections in several other states were held recently. Conducted in eight-phases, spanning 34 days, West Bengal witnessed the longest state elections India has ever seen.
In an interview to ANI, Jaishankar said that politics surrounding the coronavirus crisis and critical media coverage should be stopped.
“You don’t stop elections in a place like India,” he said. “Only time we stopped elections is an era some decades ago when I was pretty much younger, we don’t want to be associated with that kind of memory,” the minister added, apparently referring to the Emergency imposed by former Prime Minister Indira Gandhi in 1975.
Jaishankar dismissed criticism of the Bharatiya Janata Party focusing on elections instead of making the pandemic a top priority as “point scoring”. “Somebody will this say this crowd contributed to it, somebody else will say that crowd contributed,” he said. “Somebody will say that individual or leader A, somebody will say leader B didn’t wear a mask there.”
On why the Indian government was exporting coronavirus vaccines despite a catastrophic surge in the country, Jaishankar said the pandemic was a global problem. “Today I’m going through this crisis,” he said. “Tomorrow someone else might be going through the crisis. Just as I get support from the world today, I will be offering support to the world tomorrow as I did yesterday as my situation was better.”
According to the foreign minister, it was “not accurate” to project India as accepting foreign aid to tackle the health crisis. “Now what you describe as aid we describe as friendship, as support,” he told ANI.
The minister said public health should be taken seriously by objectively analysing the problem. “When it comes to media there would be editorial lines which are very strong,” he claimed. “When I see comments, very frankly, I see a lot of analysis by people who write fiction.”
India’s coronavirus deaths rose by a record 3,780 during the last 24 hours, a day after the country became the world’s second, after the United States, to cross the grim milestone of 2 crore total cases mark. Daily cases rose by 3,82,315 to 2,06,65,148 since the pandemic broke out in January 2020. India has recorded more than 3 lakh cases a day for nearly 15 days in a row, since April 22.