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Free Covid vaccine: NCP’s move spells trouble in Maharashtra govt

The free vaccination announcement by Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) leader and minority affairs minister Nawab Malik has led to friction within the Maharashtra Vikas Aghadi’s (MVA) ruling parties
By HT Correspondent, Mumbai
PUBLISHED ON APR 27, 2021 01:19 AM IST

The free vaccination announcement by Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) leader and minority affairs minister Nawab Malik has led to friction within the Maharashtra Vikas Aghadi’s (MVA) ruling parties. The Congress has expressed its discontent over the unilateral announcement, while leaders in the Shiv Sena are not very happy with the act of the NCP leader, insiders said.

Malik, while speaking to media on the Sunday, said the state government has taken the decision to provide free vaccination to all above 18 years. He said the decision was taken during the state cabinet meeting last Tuesday with chief minister (CM) Uddhav Thackeray, who gave his nod for the same.

Sena leader and environment minister Aaditya Thackeray, too, on Sunday tweeted about the announcement, but deleted them within minutes saying official announcement will be declared by the empowered committee. He said, “I have deleted the earlier tweet as to not cause confusion about the vaccination policy of Maharashtra that would be fully ensuring fast, efficient vaccination and would leave nobody behind,” he said.

Congress leader and revenue minister Balasaheb Thorat on Monday expressed his discontent over the announcement, calling it an attempt of grabbing credit. “The Congress has been demanding free vaccination for all since the beginning. We have put up the demand with the CM, and as part of the cabinet, we are part of the deliberation over it. It is uncalled for to announce it for the sake of credit. The Congress is not happy over the unilateral announcement,” he said.

When asked for his reaction, Malik on Monday said, “I would not like to comment on Balasaheb Thoratji’s statement.”

The Congress believably conveyed their discontent to CM Thackeray. “There is a coordination committee of senior leaders from all three ruling parties. The policy of free vaccination for all is being framed and the group has already had a couple of meetings over it. The CM wants it to be announced on May 1, Maharashtra Day, after formally discussing it in the cabinet meeting in the next two days. In such a backdrop, the premature announcement was uncalled for,” said a Congress leader.

The leader added that Aaditya deleted his tweet to avoid breach of protocol by announcing a policy without its formal approval.

Sena’s chief spokesperson Sanjay Raut said CM Thackeray will announce the decision.

Meanwhile, leader of Opposition in the legislative Assembly Devendra Fadnavis said the state government should chalk out a policy instead of making an announcement out of one upmanship. “People will be flocking for the vaccine in the third phase beginning from May 1 and the state government should chalk out a strategy for it. Instead of that, cabinet ministers are busy making announcements, sending out tweets and then deleting it. There is no coordination within the state cabinet. Since Prime Minister Narendra Modi, in his Mann Ki Baat on Sunday, has already announced to vaccinate all free of cost, no question arises of free vaccination by the states,” he said.

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