Meet the new 'Shah' of Delhi, cracking down on Covid in the capital
Updated Jun 15, 2020
The optics of Amit Shah going to LNJP - a Delhi government-run hospital and reviewing the situation and reacting with the medical staff is impossible to not being compared to Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal, who seems to have willingly taken a backseat, faced with the unprecedented situation.
However, installing CCTVs was not the only directive Shah gave to Delhi Chief Secretary - someone who reports to the Delhi government. He also instructed for psycho-social counselling of doctors and nurses engaged in treatment of patients infected with the virus. Shah's instructions were minute and forward looking.
He also directed the Delhi Chief Secretary that back-ups for canteens should also be established, so that in case, there is an infection in one canteen, patients can continue to get food without disruption.
Shah's choice to visit LNJP is also significant. The hospital recently invited negative publicity after several videos shot in its premises purportedly showed patients' bodies lying on the floor in wards. The videos also showed some elderly patients left unattended even as they cried for help. Even the apex court has taken strong note of media reports, lashing out at the Kejriwal government.
Just before that visit, Shah announced on Monday that coronavirus testing will be made available to all in Delhi, after he met an all-party delegation at his North Block office. This comes despite an all-party meeting that was convened by Lt Governor Anil Baijal, technically the head of Delhi.
Already feeling the political heat, the Congress made it worse for the Aam Aadmi Party when Delhi Congress chief Anil Kumar asked: "The question that needs to be asked is why did Arvind Kejriwal not take the initiative like the ones taken by the LG and the Union Home Minister."
Coming out of the all party meeting, Delhi's ruling party's representative, parliamentarian Sanjay Singh merely told reporters: "During the all-party meeting, it has been decided that the number of 1,900 beds in state government hospitals, 2,000 beds in Central government hospitals and 1.078 beds in private hospitals will be increased for Covid-19 patients."
A day before, Sunday was not a time of leisure either for the man who is increasingly appearing to have taken Delhi's charge in his hand. Shah's Sunday was action packed with back to back meetings. First it was with Chief Minister Kejriwal, LG Baijal, Union Health Minister Harsh Vardhan among others. Sources say that the meeting was to identify what is the current situation of the pandemic in the national capital. He attached six Indian Administrative Service (IAS) officers to the Delhi government to assist in Covid-19 management.
Next, Shah held another meeting on Sunday evening with all Delhi Mayors to devise a strategy that goes down to the municipality level. AIIMS chief Dr Randeep Guleria was also present on Sunday.
While the Delhi government is run by the AAP, the MCDs are governed by the BJP. Shah's twin meetings on Sunday were a clear signal - get over with politics, time to join hands. On Monday, that signal was articulated more comprehensively when Shah tweeted: "The Modi government is determined to prevent the coronavirus infection in Delhi. To stop the spread of the virus, testing will be doubled in the next two days and after six days the testing will be increased three-fold. Subsequently, after a few days, every polling station in the containment zones will be covered for testing."
But that hasn't stopped the obvious political potshots. BJP's General Secretary (Organisation) B.L. Santosh and someone who technically is number two after party chief J.P. Nadda, within the organisation tweeted: "Home Minister @AmitShah visits LNJP Hospital , Delhi to review operations & preparedness. Till to date the Delhi CM @ArvindKejriwal did not find time to visit to hospitals . Governance is never a priority for anarchists."
Whether governance is a priority for Kejriwal or not is a matter of political debate. However, what is not is how the Delhi Chief Minister relinquished the authority to Amit Shah who has now stepped in and cracked whip in the last 48 hours to get the spiralling pandemic situation in the national capital under control.