I write in repsonse to Outlook’s cover story on the Bihar assembly polls (Second Is First Fiddle, November 23). NDA’s victory in Bihar, albeit by a slender margin, makes it clear that there has been no erosion of its support base, at least not to the extent needed, to dislodge it from power. Even so, the good fight put up by the Mahagathbandhan denied the “double engine sarkar” a runaway victory. With far fewer JD(U) MLAs, Nitish Kumar—one of India’s great political survivors—will now find himself diminished in stature and under compulsion to play second fiddle to the BJP. However, the BJP may play it safe and not dictate terms for fear that he may cross over to the Mahagathbandhan. Perhaps NDA’s return to power despite disillusionment with the government can be plausibly explained in terms of the overarching appeal Hindutva still holds for the masses. The NDA would not have been able to beat anti-incumbency if unacceptably high levels of unemployment and the plight of uncared-for migrant workers had decisively influenced voter preference. By no means can the verdict be counted or claimed as a positive vote for its performance. True to form, PM Narendra Modi did his campaign blitzkrieg adopting his usual more-patriotic-than-thou posture, touching on Ayodhya, Article 370, Balakot and chanting ‘Bharat Mata Ki Jai’ and ‘Jai Shri Ram’ at every opportunity. Post-election, he hailed the result as a vote for ‘development’. It is clear from vote and seat shares that caste, too, was a major factor. To lose the ‘MY’ tag, Tejashwi Yadav described his resurgent RJD as an ‘A to Z’ party. The arithmetically sound “social coalition” engineered by BJP and JD (U) was electorally rewarding for them. Voters are still to transcend caste identity and vote on the basis of the bread-and-butter issues of politics. Tejashwi is now assured of a prominent role in Bihar politics. Nitish, now CM for a record fourth time, should do more than maintain the status quo.
G. David Milton, Maruthancode
Once again, Bihar Assembly election results proved to be a hard blow for pollsters. All exit polls had predicted a defeat for the ruling JD(U)-BJP combine and a resounding victory for the Mahagathbandhan. On counting day, the NDA edged past. With the BJP emerging as Big Brother, Nitish Kumar will have a much weaker hand to play with. Prior to the election, rumours of the BJP aiming to cut Nitish Kumar to size and having roped in LJP leader Chirag Paswan to field candidates against JD(U) towards this purpose were afloat. Chirag followed the script, if there was one, of attacking Nitish, to the hilt. Now, with Chirag doing poorly, he may be treated shabbily by the BJP at the behest of Nitish. The JD(U) chief has taken oath for a fourth term as Bihar CM, but the margin between the NDA and the Mahagathbandhan is thin and the BJP-JD(U) combo doesn’t have a simple majority on its own. The BJP may have become the second-largest party in the assembly but it is in no position to run the show on its own terms or without Nitish.
M.C. Joshi, Lucknow
This is about Outlook’s cover story on the search, availability and possible delivery of the eagerly awaited vacine for COVID-19 (The VacScene, Nov 16). At the outset it must be stated that your article is informative and thought- provoking. If intial reports are to be believed, Pfizer, which uses messenger RNA technology, is the frontrunner in delivery of the vaccine. India’s target of vaccinating 30 crore people, about 22 per cent of its population, by September 2021 is a very difficut task, but we hope it will be achieved. This also depends on the avaliblity of ‘cold chains’, a vitally important aspect duly highlighted in the story. We hope the Centre and state governments will be up to the humongous task without resorting to the ruses of politics.
D.B. Madan, New Delhi
If the announcement of the Pfizer vaccine is approved by regulatory authorities, we’ll have access to a vaccine soon. More vaccines, including from India, are in the final phases of trials. It is now time for governments to work on the logistics of delivery and cost. Indian vaccine makers have the capacity to produce in large volumes and are in discussions with researchers and global corporations. Our domestic pharmaceuticals industry is capable of quickly scaling up mass production too. It’s reassuring that our health authorities are holding discussions with manufacturers on the logistics of reaching it to vulnerable frontline healthcare personnel and the elderly. Discovering a treatment which is unaffordable by the vast majority is pointless.
H.N. Ramakrishna, Bangalore
The COVID-19 vaccine may be developed soon but the vaccine to make us immune from hate, prejudice and animosity is light years away! How many firms are working at it?
Richa Juyal, Dehradun
I refer to the editorial in Outlook, Delivery Awaited (Nov 16). For crores of Indians to be vaccinated, the vaccines have to go through rigorous and multi-layered testing, re-testing and trials in Indian and international labs. A vaccine may be a reality by mid-2021, but more than the science, the politics of administering the vaccine will decide an equitable distribution. But when the party governing the country uses the promise of a free vaccine to voters, the writing is on the wall.
Rakesh Agrawal, Dehradun
The good news is that the delivery of the Covid vaccine may start within the next few months. But human character in the context of global solidarity in the face of a pandemic may be tested—vaccine nationalism may be a blot on humanity. However, such huge exercises have been undertaken before: largescale smallpox immunisation was done 1n 1802; the plague vaccine came in 1897; in 1958 BCG vaccination programme was launched and the national smallpox eradication project was successfully achieved in 1962.
M.N. Bhartiya, Goa
This refers to the column by Tanushree Ganguly on Delhi’s endemic air pollution problem (A Towering White Elephant, Nov 16). Our politicians are wont to jump upon any new idea without going into its efficacy, views of experts and its adaptability to our conditions. In the quest for publicity they look for immediate solutions, even if it is a total failure and waste of time and resources. The proposed smog tower at Connaught Place would be a failure, even so it has been announced with fanfare. Why can’t a local councillor or MLA be made responsible, to a degree, for controlling air pollution in his/her area?
S.P Ashta, New Delhi
This is apropos Vappala Balachandran’s column on states’ attitude to the CBI (Yes, They Can, Nov 9). Central agencies, especially the CBI, have traditionally been handmaidens of ruling governments. Congress governments were masters at the misuse. The current NDA is following suit. This is evident in Kerala, where central agencies are running roughshod on the excuse of investigating scams in the state, the real intension being toppling the ruling LDF government. Maharashtra rightly exhibited the spine to refuse central agencies’ similar dabbling with state matters.
George Jacob, Kochi