NEW DELHI: Senior BJP leader and Union Minister of Information and Broadcasting Prakash Javadekar was among the 12 ministers who resigned on Wednesday. Javadekar appears to have paid the price of negative publicity, which the Modi government faced during the second wave of the pandemic.
The departure of Javadekar, who was also the environment minister, is a political setback for him because he was the government’s spokesperson and had for years shaped narratives presented to the media. Some of the headlines in global media that brought India into shame was The Guardian’s ‘The system has collapsed; India’s descent into covid hell’, New York Times’ ‘India’s Covid-19 Crisis Shakes Modi’s Image of Strength’, UK Financial Times’ ‘More funeral pyres will burn unless Modi takes accountability’. During the peak of second wave, CNN said: ‘PM Modi could have prevented India’s devastating Covid-19 crisis, critics say.’
An opinion piece in The Guardian said: ‘While India is desperate for oxygen, its politicians deny there’s a problem’, an editorial in The Atlantic was headlined, ‘India Is What Happens When Rich People Do Nothing’, French newspaper Le Monde’s carried an editorial titled ‘Narendra Modi’s lack of foresight caused the crisis’. Time magazine had an opinion piece titled, ‘It isn’t just Modi, India’s media must also take responsibility for Covid-19 crisis’.
The other senior minister whose exit came as a surprise to many was Union Law and Information & Technology Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad. He had lately been locked in a bitter row with Twitter over new IT rules. Last month, he was even briefly locked out of his Twitter account.
The exit of these two ministers also marks a generational change, sources in the Bhartiya Janata Party said. Union Health Minister Harsh Vardhan also quit, with deputy Ashwani Chaube. The resignations were viewed as an admission of the government’s mishandling of the Covid crisis, particularly in the second wave when the world saw the plight India was in.