Maharashtra-Center Slugfest & Pandemic Politics – Views from Ground Zero
Maharashtra Chief Minister and opposition leader Uddhav Thackeray made a bombshell claim on Saturday, 17 April 2021 that a staffer in Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s office informed him that PM Modi was busy with the West Bengal election, when the state chief called him to discuss the ongoing shortage of oxygen and Remdesivir, a life-saving drug being used to treat COVID patients.
The Maharashtra CM’s explosive allegation against PM Modi prompted a rapid response from Dr. Harsh Vardhan, the federal Health Minister, who assured the state that all assistance is being rendered in its ongoing battle against the Coronavirus pandemic. The Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP) has rubbished the Thackeray’s claim.
Both the Shiv Sena led Maharashtra state government and the BJP led government at the center have been embroiled in an ongoing political slugfest over issues ranging from Television Rating Point (TRP) manipulation, the subsequent arrest of Republic TV founder-editor Arnab Goswami, widespread corruption entrenched within the Maharashtra State Police, and the ongoing state-center politicisation of Coronavirus vaccination drives, the acute shortage of health care infrastructure and other critical medical supplies.
Saturday 17 April 2021 witnessed yet another round political sparring following the Mumbai Police’s questioning and subsequent release of the director of a Bruck Pharma, a pharmaceutical company with a manufacturing unit in Union Territories of Daman and Diu.
According to an official from the Bandra-Kurla-Complex (BKC) police, “He had been stocking at least 60,000 vials (of Remdesivir). The state and central governments had permitted him to sell the stock, originally meant for export, in the domestic market due to scarcity of the drug used to treat Coronavirus patients.” He was released after the necessary documents were produced.
This incident earned the ire of former Maharashtra CM and leader of the opposition Devendra Fadnavis from the BJP who said, “Four days ago we had requested Bruck Pharma to supply us with Remdesivir, but they were unable to until permission was accorded. I proceeded to speak to Union Minister, Mansukh Mandaviya and we got the Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) permission.”
The former CM claimed that a state minister’s officer on special duty called the pharma executive and asked him how he could provide Remdesivir on the appeal of opposition parties. The National Congress Party (NCP) spokesperson Nawab Malik alleged that the central government was pressurising then to not sell stock to the state.
The BJP however has rubbished these claims and described it as an attempt to politicise the pandemic. “Malik and some ministers have nothing to do with the problems faced by the people suffering from the Coronavirus pandemic. They are more interested,” chided Fadnavis.
What do political leaders on the ground feel?
Ground level political leaders (across party lines) who have witnessed the scourge of the pandemic firsthand were asked about their thoughts on the ongoing controversy. Former Ward 122 Corporator, Chandan Sharma from the NCP said, “I think instead of blaming each other all parties should unite and fight against this COVID-19 menace and help our citizens during these testing times brought by the pandemic.”
National General Secretary, Indian Youth Congress, Abraham ‘Roy’ Mani said, “The Prime Minister should stop campaigning and put all his attention on tackling the COVID-19 situation. Maharashtra needs Remedesvir, oxygen and the center should provide it immediately as it is a matter of human lives.”
General Secretary of the Mumbai Youth Congress, Vijay Kumar Kanojiya said, “The only thing that concerns Prime Minister Narendra Modi are elections, he is not in the least bothered about the well-being of his citizens plain and simple! Just take a look at his governments vaccine policy, over six-crores of vaccine doses were exported to other countries in the name of vaccine diplomacy, while we were facing a major shortage at home.”
The youth politician went on to say, “He left his countrymen to die! What about his so-called Gujarat model? The pandemic situation in Surat is abysmal! Despite all the challenges plaguing the nation, his only concern seems to be winning the elections! “As is being reported by your media fraternity, our chief minister tried to contact him on a matter of emergency, however the prime minister could not even be least bothered!”
“He is not a leader, just a power-hungry man looking to survive another term. He does not have power in our state, therefore no concern, as per humanity, it can safely be said that he does not have any. Despite the grave situation he openly holding election rallies with people attending in the lakhs! He is playing with the lives of the people in order to contest elections, he is simply addicted to power, humanity be damned!” Added the young Congress leader.
Ward 122 Corporater and South-Central Mumbai Prabhari of the BJP, Shriniwas Tripathi said that the two political leaders mutually resolved the issue and discussed the States requirements by the counter the second wave. “Maharashtra Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray has spoken to Prime Minister Narendra Modi on this issue. The Prime Minister had assured him that the Central Government will support the State Government of Maharashtra namely with the challenges it faces in the supply of Oxygen, Remdesivir and vaccination,” clarified the BJP official.
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