Editorials - 06-05-2021

Despite a fierce Hindutva push, the BJP failed to retain the level of Hindu support it garnered in 2019

There is no denying that the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has massively increased its vote and seat share in West Bengal compared to the 2016 Assembly election, and this has largely been on the back of a strong Hindu consolidation behind it (50%), as per the Lokniti-CSDS’s post-poll survey. But the party failed to retain the level of Hindu support (57%, or nearly three-fifths) it had secured in the 2019 Lok Sabha election, thus ending up faring way below its own expectations and its performance in the last general election.

The Trinamool Congress was a direct beneficiary of this erosion of votes, with the party registering an increase in Hindu support from 32% in 2019 to 39% this time. This seven-percentage-point shift from the BJP to the Trinamool happened despite the former running a high-pitched Hindutva campaign that was aimed at exciting Hindus throughJai Shri Ramslogans, talk of illegal migration, allegations of ‘Muslim appeasement’ against the ruling party, and anti-Muslim dog whistles, such as raising the spectre of West Bengal becoming a ‘mini-Pakistan’ and calling Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee ‘begum’and ‘khala’.

The post-poll survey conducted by Lokniti-CSDS and data from our study after the 2019 Lok Sabha election together point to the story of limited Hindu consolidation. This has also to do with the way the Hindu mind in West Bengal seems to be working at the moment.

In our 2019 survey, we asked respondents in West Bengal (and the rest of the country) a set of questions to gauge their views on secularism, the temple-mosque dispute and minority rights. Surprisingly, despite political polarisation, full-fledged communalisation had not occurred in the State, as it was found that many Hindus, including those who voted for the BJP, gave highly secular and pluralistic answers to most of these questions, and far more so than their counterparts in other regions of the country.

For instance, on a question on the 1992 Babri Masjid demolition, only one in every five Hindus in Bengal had said that demolition was justified, as opposed to two-fifths in the rest of the country. Similarly, a huge majority of Hindus in Bengal (81%) held that India is a country of all religions, and not just Hindus. The same figure among Hindus in the rest of the country was 74%.

On the issue of protecting minority rights, 38% of Hindus in West Bengal agreed with the proposition that even if it is not liked by the majority community, the government must protect the interests of minorities. This sentiment, in fact, strengthened further to 58% this time, when we repeated this question in our survey.

What these responses indicate is that even as average Bengali Hindus may have supported the BJP in large numbers in 2019, the reasons for doing so were different and not necessarily an endorsement of the BJP’s Hindutva agenda. This perhaps explains why the BJP’s support among Hindu voters declined this time instead of increasing. Heavily polarising rhetoric by the BJP in the recent election may well have alienated the liberal tolerant section of the Bengali Hindus from the BJP, particularly the traditional Left voters, who had shown interest in the party in 2019. It also seems to have had the effect of scaring Muslims who consolidated in even larger proportions (75%) behind the Trinamool Congress than they had in 2019. The Trinamool, thus, ended up benefiting both ways.

The story, of course, has another side. There is some traction to the idea that the government accorded undue favours to minorities. While a majority of the Hindus in the rest of the country had no problem with it, in West Bengal, the support for the idea was lukewarm, with many being ambivalent on the issue. In fact, in the 2021 survey, most Hindus, even the ones who ended up voting for the Trinamool Congress, agreed with the proposition that the party had given undue favours to Muslims during its tenure, an issue that the BJP had raised. It is nonetheless interesting that many of them continued to vote for the Trinamool despite holding this view.

None of this is to say that there was no polarisation on religious lines in this election. But the divide was mostly restricted to seats where the Muslim population was higher in proportion. It is also important to note that the Hindu share in the Trinamool’s votes was 57% this time and the Muslim share was 42%; in 2019, it had been 50% for each.

In sum, the BJP, which prides itself on knowing the Hindu mind, may have failed spectacularly in deciphering the Bengali Hindu psyche. It has been unable to transform the majority community into a minority-hating monolith.

Moreover, the majority community was also divided on the basis of caste, class, gender and other social identities, and the Hindutva campaign clearly fell short in catering to everyday concerns around development and livelihood. In the cultural rubric of Bengal’s politics, there was limited room for uni-dimensional religious polarisation, a fact that the BJP took very lightly.

Suprio Basu is with the Department of Sociology, University of Kalyani; Jyotiprasad Chatterjee is Associate Professor of Sociology at Barrackpore Rastraguru Surendranath College; Shreyas Sardesai is a Research Associate at Lokniti-CSDS, Delhi; Suhas Palshikar is the Co-Director of the Lokniti programme

It is reasonable to expect Dravidian ideology to continue its transformational journey under DMK rule

The Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) has emerged victorious in the 2021 Tamil Nadu Assembly elections, a win that falls short of earlier projections of a landslide but one that can be considered a resounding vindication of its high-voltage Dravidian-values campaign. What do the tumultuous events of the past few months, culminating in the election results, mean for the State and its politics?

There are two broad issues to consider: first, what the DMK’s victory at the hustings means for governance in Tamil Nadu, a State that has prided itself for delivering at a high level on human development and mass welfare policies; and second, what the change of leadership wrought by this election tells us about recent tectonic shifts in Dravidian politics and its prognosis.

Quality of leadership

In handing a clear mandate for governance to the DMK, led by its President M.K. Stalin, the Tamil Nadu electorate has expressed its well-known preference for strong leadership. Leadership in this context extends beyond a single person, and rather connotes a leadership system. A leadership system includes not only external-facing attributes of the leader in question, such as their personal charisma and broad popularity in the eyes of supporters, but also social networks and power relationships within the party that bind the leader to the cadre, help maintain discipline, negotiate agreements between party bosses, plan resource allocation for policies, and propagate the values of the party or movement.

In these attributes, Mr. Stalin comes out ahead of outgoing Chief Minister and All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK) Joint Coordinator, Edappadi K. Palaniswami. Mr. Stalin’s late father, five-time Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu and Dravidian movement stalwart M. Karunanidhi, ensured that the DMK had an orderly succession planning process leading to Mr. Stalin inheriting the mantle of the party leadership after Karunanidhi’s passing. Even more, Karunanidhi’s clarity of message ensured that the party heavyweights neatly aligned themselves behind the anointed successor, seeing off all challenges including from Mr. Stalin’s estranged older brother M.K. Alagiri. The coalescence of political power within the DMK around a central vector has important consequences for governance. First, the absence of intra-party conflict will lead to smoother agenda setting and resource allocation to meet policy needs. Second, it is likely to lend strength to the party’s ideological chassis.

The AIADMK contrarily suffered the consequences of Jayalalithaa degrading multiple rungs of leadership beneath her, likely a strategy to consolidate her position as the perpetual head of the party. Consequently, it was not surprising to witness the factional infighting that characterised the early years of the outgoing government. Indeed, it is likely that despite surmounting these internal wobbles and providing several years of stable governance, Mr. Palaniswami faced a setback in the election owing to a lack of confidence of the electorate in his ability to hold his flock together over the longer term and resist pressure to enter into an alliance with the Bharatiya Janata Party and its brand of Hindutva.

Mass welfare or rent-seeking?

Looking beyond leadership to the broad question of agenda setting that it implies, there is a deeper imperative for effective policy implementation in this State — the invisible hand of competitive populism. Ever since the dawn of “benevolent populism” under former Chief Minister and AIADMK supremo M.G. Ramachandran (MGR), an irresistible commitment to policy competition in the realm of mass welfare schemes has become deeply entrenched in the ethos of successive Tamil Nadu governments.

Yet, there is little doubt that in this regard, strong leadership cuts two ways, and the history of governance in Tamil Nadu supplies the starkest illustration of this. In parallel to the redistribution of resources to lower castes and classes for the best part of half a century, the highest rungs of leadership built up an unassailable machine for illicit resource extraction for private gain. This institutionalised system of extortion and loot obscenely enriched the leadership and provided a reliable bonanza to party loyalists and external contractors lining up for kickbacks. While supporters of the DMK may thus rejoice at having put into power a leader they believe will deliver on party manifesto promises, there may be many in Tamil Nadu who wonder whether Mr. Stalin and his colleagues will break with this ignoble past and forge a new path toward accountable and transparent governance.

Inflection point

This brings us to the second broad question that bears consideration in the aftermath of the 2021 State Assembly election — whether the rare window of opportunity for fundamental change that opened up after the passing of Jayalalithaa and Karunanidhi, to reimagine the long-term vision for Tamil Nadu, can be capitalised upon. The absence from the landscape of these two politically centralising leaders offered two new possibilities: first, of party organisations based on more democratic decision-making processes and focused on delivering good governance; and second, of Dravidianism transmuting into a new ethos to answer the challenge of homogenising ideologies such as Hindutva.

In the case of the DMK, decisions on allocation of party posts, election tickets, alliance formulas and resource allocation have over the decades become narrowly focused on the family of Karunanidhi. While “Kalaignar” himself came from a more everyman ethos and was, as a major leader of his party, integrated deeply into the values of Dravidianist mobilisation, the rise to prominence of his progeny and broader family including the Maran clan, led to a centralisation of control of all party matters in the hands of a few individuals. Now that the party is back in power, will Mr. Stalin be able to restrain the “first family” of the DMK from self-defeating overreach?

The AIADMK occupies the opposite end of the spectrum in this regard — it has historically been ruled by autocratic leaders such as MGR and Jayalalithaa, yet, under Mr. Palaniswami, it appeared to pivot to a relatively more diffused balance of power internally. Indeed, Mr. Palaniswami had no choice but to focus on delivering good governance as he lacked the political heft to hold on to the top job in the State by any other means. The vital question for Tamil Nadu now is whether his approach created sufficient competitive pressure to keep the DMK on the straight and narrow and not once again get enmeshed in allegations of land-grabbing or other actions associated with kleptocracy.

Reinventing an ideology

On the subject of political ideology, Dravidianism has already gone through a dramatic transformation over decades from the early days of “assertive populism” under Periyar E.V. Ramasamy, C.N. Annadurai and Karunanidhi — a phase during which anti-Brahminism, anti-Hindi and anti-North Indian politics were the locus of mass mobilisation. Today, it is far more accommodationist in its leaning and eschews caste antagonisms in favour of pressing claims of state autonomy toward realising the goal of Tamil exceptionalism within a variegated Indian cultural milieu.

Many assumed that the growing footprint of Hindutva politics across the nation would be the greatest challenge to the hegemonic influence of Dravidianism. Indeed, the BJP has re-entered the State Assembly this time after being absent there for 20 years. Yet, if there is one lesson from the 2021 State Assembly election, it is that the imperviousness of Tamil Nadu to Hindutva speaks less to the aversion of its people to religious politics than it does to the fact that, for a majority of them, the sheer adaptability of the Dravidian ethos makes it a more comfortable, less alien vehicle to transport them to a promising future.

In that sense, it would be reasonable to expect Dravidian ideology to continue its transformational journey over the coming five years under DMK rule to further shed whatever remains of its anti-religiosity edge and thereby win over even more caste Hindus to its fold.

Simultaneously, if Mr. Stalin is astute enough to recognise what his mandate to govern truly encompasses — the people’s hope that he will keep the State on the path of broad-based economic growth, sustained industrial development, and a continued commitment to pro-poor policies — he will expeditiously ring-fence the economy from predatory rent-seeking behaviour by political elites.

narayan@thehindu.co.in

Going by data and the risk factors, its widespread use in diagnosing the infectious disease needs to be questioned

There are broadly three reasons why we perform tests in clinical medicine: diagnosis (what is the disease?), etiognosis (what caused a disease?), and prognosis (how will the disease evolve?). It is also important that the outcome of a test should guide treatment in some way, especially when it is being touted as being a monitoring test that provides unique information that cannot be obtained by easier means. Considering how widespread the use of computerised tomography (CT) scans of the thorax during the novel coronavirus pandemic has been, one would assume that the test would satisfy one, if not all the above criteria, for an accurate diagnostic test.

Data from studies

The Cochrane (previously known as the Cochrane Collaboration) pooled together all the available data from studies conducted over the last year (https://bit.ly/33ftvVt) to try and test the accuracy of CT scans in diagnosing COVID-19. It included 41 studies with a total of 16,133 participants. It was found that a CT scan accurately diagnosed COVID-19 in about 88% of individuals with a positive RT-PCR. Since an RT-PCR itself misses 30% of people who have COVID-19, a chest CT is likely to diagnose only 62% of all individuals having COVID-19, making it a relatively inaccurate test for diagnosis. In these difficult times in obtaining RT-PCRs due to overworked laboratory services, the use of a CT chest as a surrogate needs to come with a caveat: a normal CT chest does not exclude COVID-19, and, therefore, should not be a reason to come out of isolation, especially when the CT is done very early in the disease.

Mislabelling the cause

An accurate test for etiognosis would be one in which a result would make the cause almost certain. The same Cochrane review mentioned above found that when radiologists convincingly labelled a CT pattern as being consistent with COVID-19 disease, they mislabelled 20% of those who did not have the disease as having COVID-19, getting the etiognosis wrong in a significant proportion of individuals. Telling someone who does not have COVID-19 that they do have the disease has serious implications, leaving the real diagnosis undetected, and subjecting the individual to the psychosocial consequences of the knowledge that she/he has the disease.

The third reason that is often cited as being a reason to do a CT is for prognostication: a CT that appears worse is likely to lead to worse outcomes than a CT that appears better. Two comments need to be made in this context: the severity of lung involvement as seen on a CT is reflective of the status of the lungs at that point of time, and we know that this is a dynamic process, i.e., a limited involvement at an early stage could progress with time to a severe involvement; and a CT scan revealing severely affected lungs while oxygen levels remain high and unchanged is an extremely improbable event, suggesting that a CT is unlikely to give a treating physician more information than a simple tool such as an oximeter. It needs to be mentioned that in research settings, certain patterns of lung involvement (and not the mere quantum as reported by a score) have been associated with worse outcomes (https://bit.ly/3xInyi5), but unfortunately, these have not been widely validated, and are not the reason why CT scans are presently being performed.

The risks

“What is the harm in getting a CT of the chest done?” is another argument one hears often. A study published inThe New England Journal of Medicinein 2007 (https://bit.ly/3eSuIru) postulated that “0.4% of all cancers in the United States may be attributable to the radiation from CT studies”, and further speculated that the current estimate could be in the range of 1.5%-2%. This potential harm would have been clearly acceptable had this been a highly accurate and useful test. In addition to this risk to the individual undergoing the scan, there are risks to radiology technicians, staff and doctors that need to be accounted for. Moreover, considering the fact that CT scanners need to be kept in closed air-conditioned spaces, the risk of transmission of the virus at such centres cannot be ruled out.

As a physician treating COVID-19 disease over the past year, I have ordered CT scans for less than 1% of the patients whom I have treated. I have ordered them to evaluate the possibility of other lung diseases when two RT-PCR swabs were negative in patients whose symptoms were consistent with COVID-19 disease, in patients in whom there was a possibility of blood clots in the lungs when hospitalised, and to look for secondary infections in individuals who have been in hospital for a long time and can sometimes have new infections after being admitted for COVID-19. Intensivists have on occasion used CT scans to optimise ventilator strategies for individuals with severe COVID-19 disease. Indications outside of these should be the exception, not the norm.

Raise queries

So, if a physician asks that a CT scan be done, ask her/him a few questions. If it is being done for diagnosis, why not do an RT-PCR instead (or two RT-PCRs), considering the higher accuracy of the test? If it is being done despite COVID-19 being proven, ask whether a minimal involvement on the scan guarantees an uneventful clinical course, or whether a more than minimal involvement (when the oxygen levels are high, and the patient seems to be getting better) is a sign of impending deterioration. Ask whether treatment strategies have been proven to work better when guided by chest CTs (rather than clinical findings such as oxygen levels). If the answer to none of these satisfies you, consider the potential risks involved in getting that CT done, and feel free to make an informed decision.

Lancelot Pinto is Consultant Respirologist, P.D. Hinduja National Hospital and Medical Research Centre, Mumbai

Contrary to expectations, the BJP’s appeal among backward classes and the rural poor has petered out

The phrase ‘subaltern Hindutva’ was bandied about quite a lot in academic and journalistic circles during the recently concluded West Bengal Assembly election. Many journalists and scholars covering stories from the field had a common account, that a large section of rural poor, backward classes, Dalits and Adivasis had firmly shifted towards the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) under the influence of the Hindutva ideology, and that the Trinamool Congress, which owed its rise to the backward classes in 2011, had become extremely unpopular among them. Some described the movement of these subaltern classes towards the BJP as cultural and political solidarity among Hindus and also a reflection of the dominance of‘anti-Bhadralok’(anti-upper caste/class) sentiments in rural areas that the Trinamool Congress had once benefited from.

The post-poll survey data, however, suggest that both the subaltern andbhadralokshift that had taken place towards the BJP on a massive scale in the 2019 Lok Sabha election waned this time and the Trinamool Congress managed to retain much of its lost support among these sections.

Data show that the decline in support for the BJP compared to the Lok Sabha election was the steepest among OBC communities (Yadavs, Kurmis, Kumhars, Lohars, Telis, etc., taken together), falling from over two-thirds (68%) to just half (49%) this time around. Like OBC voters, Adivasi voters, too, were far less enthused by the BJP, and their support fell drastically from 62% to 46%. Most of them made their way back to the Trinamool, which also explains why the ruling party regained lost ground in some of the State’s tribal areas and Scheduled Tribes-reserved seats.

Erosion of Dalit support

Among Dalit communities, too, on whom the BJP invested considerable time and energy this time, the party was simply unable to retain the huge level of support it had garnered two years ago, and much of this was due to the erosion of the Rajbanshi support. The BJP’s vote share among Rajbanshis declined from three-fourths in 2019 to three-fifths this time. This is counter-intuitive since the BJP did well in north Bengal, but the survey data suggest that it was more on account of support from groups other than Rajbanshis and other communities. The only segment of Dalits that the BJP was able to hold on to were the Namashudras (including Matua refugees), but among them, too, the party managed to make only meagre progress, and even that was limited to certain regions. In fact, for the BJP to have had any chance at defeating the Trinamool Congress, it needed to build on its 2019 base among Dalits as a whole. Far from it, it ended up losing some of them.

Finally, as far as the upper castes (Brahmins, Kayasthas, Baidyas, etc.) are concerned, the story for the BJP was no different. Among them, too, the party registered some losses instead of making any gains, falling from 50% in 2019 to 46% this time. However, this modest loss of upper-caste support should not be misinterpreted as a loss of upper-class support for the BJP. Our data do not find them to be synonymous. The BJP actually led the Trinamool Congress by a good 13 and 14 percentage points among upper-class and middle-class Hindus, respectively. It faced some tough competition among the backward classes and the poorest Hindus — the party’s vote share among the poorest Hindus registered a massive 17-percentage-point decline compared to 2019.

The author is a Research Associate at Lokniti-CSDS, Delhi

For the BJP to have had any chance at defeating the Trinamool Congress, it needed to build on its 2019 base among Dalits. But far from it, the party ended up losing some of these votes

Election after election, women voters have continuedto ally themselves with Mamata Banerjee’s party

Of the various factors that contributed to the Trinamool Congress’s victory in the Assembly election, the support of women voters for Mamata Banerjee is significant. And this is not new for this election — even in polls held during the last decade, women have always come out in support of Mamata Banerjee. Not only have women voters managed to bridge the turnout deficit vis-à-vis men, but their voting preferences have also been different. For the fourth straight election in the State (counting both Assembly and Lok Sabha elections), women voted for the Trinamool in higher proportions than men.

According to the Lokniti-CSDS post-poll survey, the gender gap this time was to the tune of four percentage points, slightly lower than in the past, but still significantly large. While 46% of men voted for the Trinamool Congress, two points lower than the party’s average vote share, among women voters, support for the Trinamool Congress touched 50%. This higher-than-average voting for the Trinamool among women also meant that the ruling party got a far bigger advantage over its principal opponent, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), among women than men. For men, the Trinamool Congress was ahead of the BJP by six percentage points, and among women, the Trinamool’s lead over the BJP was twice as high at a massive 13 percentage points.

Women voters seem to have been instrumental in driving up the Trinamool Congress’s seat numbers. A somewhat similar trend was witnessed in the 2016 Assembly election, when the Left Front-Congress alliance had trailed behind the Trinamool Congress by just two percentage points among men voters but by 12 percentage points among women.

The question that arises is, what has attracted women voters towards Mamata Banerjee election after election? It seems that many welfare schemes specifically targeted at women, like Kanyashree, Rupashree or bicycles for girl students, that the Mamata Banerjee-government launched during its tenure, may well have enhanced her popularity among women voters. Further, the fact that Ms. Banerjee has given greater representation to women in her party and government could also be making her more popular amongst women. This election saw the Trinamool Congress giving tickets to as many as 50 women, five more than the 2016 election.

A number of schemes

Another possible explanation for the Trinamool doing exceedingly well among women voters this time could be the party’s election manifesto promise that it would provide a minimum monthly income to the woman head of every family — Rs. 500 for those from the general category and Rs. 1,000 for those from Scheduled Caste, Scheduled Tribe and OBC families. The Trinamool’s vote share among Dalit women was five percentage points more than it was among Dalit men, seven points more among upper-caste women, and 13 points more among Adivasi women.

Another category of women that particularly stood out in its support for the Trinamool this time was that of elderly women aged 45 years and above. Over half of them voted for the Trinamool and only some, about a third, opted for the BJP. Women from the poorest backgrounds also emerged as Trinamool’s strong supporters. Interestingly, the only category of women that ended up siding more with the BJP than the Trinamool in this election was that of upper-class women.

The author is co-director of the Lokniti programme at CSDS

In Maratha case, SC holds fast to quota ceiling and requires special reasons to exceed it

In striking down the separate reservation given to Maharashtra’s Maratha community, the Supreme Court has underscored the importance of adhering to the 50% limit on total reservation, as well as the need to justify any excess by showing the existence of exceptional circumstances. In a decision that will be quite unpalatable to mainstream parties, the Court has not only found no merit in the Maratha claim to backwardness but also said the community is adequately represented in public services. It is no surprise that the Maratha quota, given by Maharashtra through a 2018 law, did not survive judicial scrutiny by a Constitution Bench. The 16% quota in admissions to educational institutions and jobs in public services — later brought down to 12% in admissions and 13% in jobs through a 2019 amendment — took the total reservation in the State beyond the 50% ceiling imposed by earlier verdicts. The five-Judge Bench has held that the State has not shown any exceptional circumstance to justify exceeding the limit. The Bombay High Court had upheld the validity of the Maratha reservation in principle, but ruled that the law could not have fixed the percentage above what was recommended by the State Backward Classes Commission headed by M.G. Gaikwad. The Court has now set aside this ruling, rejecting the HC’s reasoning that the denial of backward class status to the Marathas had pushed them deeper into social and educational backwardness, and that this constituted a special circumstance in support of their claim to separate reservation.

The second limb of the judgment, however, may cause political concern. The Court’s categorical refusal to reconsider the 50% limit set down by a verdict inIndra Sawhney(1992) may threaten the continuance of different kinds of reservation in States. The Court’s interpretation of the 102nd Constitution Amendment, by which a National Commission for Backward Classes was created, has proved right fears that the national body’s role and power may impact the rights of States. The Court has ruled that, henceforth, there will only be a single list of socially and educationally backward classes with respect to each State and Union Territory notified by the President of India, and that States can only make recommendations for inclusion or exclusion, with any subsequent change to be made only by Parliament. Several MPs had argued that the Amendment would denude the States of their power, but the Centre had assured them that it was not so. The Court has now ruled that Parliament’s intent was to create a scheme to identify SEBCs in the same manner as SCs and STs. The President alone, to the exclusion of all other authorities, is now empowered to identify SEBCs. A clamour for yet another constitutional amendment to undo the effect of this verdict may be in the offing.

The IPL this year was a risky proposition, and a breach of the bio-bubble was always possible

The Indian Premier League’s suspension effective from Tuesday was an inevitable full stop considering India’s continuing trauma with COVID-19 and the breach of the tournament’s much-vaunted bio-bubble. Until the emergence of the COVID-positive results of Kolkata Knight Riders’ Sandeep Warrier and Varun Chakravarthy; Sunrisers Hyderabad’s Wriddhiman Saha; Delhi Capitals’ Amit Mishra, Chennai Super Kings’ bowling coach L. Balaji and a member of the squad’s logistics staff, the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) was in denial-mode, firmly believing that its bio-bubble protocols cannot be breached. BCCI officials also insisted that the league is not a super-spreader like election rallies or other permitted activities where crowds were allowed to assemble. That both fans and the media were kept away from the venues was cited as an example of how strict the IPL management was with regard to social-distancing. Besides this, the constant testing of everyone in the bubble was seen as another fail-safe method to ensure that the league did not turn into a coronavirus hotspot. But before the final denouement, what jarred was the tone-deafness of having matches in Delhi while beyond the ground, the accompanying note was that of ambulances blaring their sirens while patients gasped for oxygen. Even if the league has its share of a massive television audience and offers a diversion to the viewers, having Delhi as a host was extremely insensitive.

The IPL’s 14th edition is at the crossroads, a reality which it had avoided since its launch in 2008. The cash-rich league always found a way to sidestep obstacles. During three general elections, the championship either fully or partially leant on neutral venues. There was also the incident of low intensity blasts just outside Bengaluru’s M. Chinnaswamy Stadium on April 17, 2010, ahead of a match featuring Royal Challengers Bangalore and Mumbai Indians. It is an event that has faded from public memory but on that ominous day, two bombs went off, injuring a few and a third was found, which was immediately defused. The contest started an hour late and the IPL continued unhindered. But the latest crisis due to a pandemic is something that humankind has never faced since the Spanish Flu in 1918. Meanwhile, the board officials are hinting about resuming the league later this year in the United Arab Emirates, which also hosted the 13th leg. But for that the virus should wane and most countries have suspended flights from India, with the Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison not even permitting a chartered flight with the IPL’s Aussie players. To find a window in a packed international cricket schedule will be arduous even if the last word on the IPL’s tenuous resumption is yet to be spoken.