Upon opening their morning copy of Sandesh, a major Gujarati daily, readers were faced with an unusually shocking scoop.
Journalists had camped outside the Covid wing of Ahmedabad Civil Hospital and in doing so revealed that Gujarat authorities had massively underestimated the state’s death toll from Covid-19. .
Yet the details of the alleged cover-up weren’t the only surprising feature of the cover. Such open criticism of the Indian government is extremely rare in a state which prides itself on being the birthplace of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and which is led by his nationalist party Bharatiya Janata (BJP).
The scale of the tragedy gripping India, which causes an estimated 20,000 deaths a day, however, appears to have rocked a normally submissive media in a rare examination of an extremely popular politician who has cultivated an aura of near invincibility.
Political observers in India are now wondering to what extent anger over the BJP’s handling of the pandemic could weaken Mr. Modi, just as it has done other populist leaders around the world, including Donald Trump.