Cong misleading people on Covid-19, JP Nadda tells Sonia Gandhi
Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) president JP Nadda on Tuesday wrote a letter to his Congress counterpart, Sonia Gandhi, asking her and the party including its chief ministers to stop “misleading people, creating false panic” over the Covid-19 pandemic and contradictory stands on the vaccination policy.
The letter came a day after the Congress Working Committee on Monday passed a resolution calling the second Covid-19 wave a “grave calamity and direct consequence of the Modi government’s indifference, insensitivity, and incompetence.”
Nadda, in his four-page response to Gandhi, accused Congress leaders of contributing to vaccine hesitancy.
“Vaccine that is made in India should be a matter of national pride. Instead, Congress leaders tried to ridicule it and create doubts in the minds of people. Even the chief ministers belonging to your party indulged in such antics. In a nation that has almost no recent history of vaccine hesitancy, your party has the dubious record of trying to actively create [it], that too, in the middle of a once-in-a-century pandemic,” the letter said.
“The Congress Working Committee talks about the Modi government ‘abdicating’ its responsibility on vaccination. Is there so much of a communication gap between the Congress party and the states it shares powers in? In April itself, topmost Congress leaders were calling for decentralisation of vaccination.”
The drug regulator’s approval of Bharat Biotech’s Covaxin came in for criticism from various quarters because it was done without even interim data being made available. The data, available several months on, did show the vaccine to be highly effective.
Nadda defended the vaccination policy and said it had already ensured considerable coverage in priority groups by providing at least 160 million vaccines to states in the first two phases.
There has been a slew of complaints from states about the deficiencies in the vaccination programme, the lack of vaccines, and their differential pricing for those above 18.
It has also become clear that India does not have enough vaccines to meet the demand, even by the Union government’s own admission. Several states are now looking to buy vaccines directly from global manufacturers. However, most manufacturers have already committed supplies for several months .
Nadda said that BJP ruled states have announced their resolve to help the poor and underprivileged by providing vaccines for free. “I am sure that Congress governments in various states also feel strongly for the poor, can they also come out with a similar decision to provide vaccines for free?”
Punjab , Rajasthan, and Chattisgarh, all governed by Congress administrations have announced that they will provide vaccines free to anyone in the 18-44 years age group. Those over the age of 45 are already covered by the Union government’s Phase 2. Maharashtra, where the Congress is part of the ruling MVA alliance has also announced free vaccines for those in the 18-44 years age group.
However, most states (including BJP ruled ones) have been scrambling to source vaccines on account of inadequate supply. According to the Union government’s latest policy, half the capacity of domestic vaccine makers will be dedicated for the Union government and the other half, equally shared between states (on the basis of their population), and the private sector.
Nadda accused the Congress of politicising the pandemic and the vaccination policy. He added that in this fight against the pandemic, the conduct of the topmost Congress leaders, including Rahul Gandhi, will be remembered for “duplicity and pettiness.”
“Your party, under your leadership, is doing no favours to itself by opposing lockdowns and then demanding for the same, ignoring the Centre’s advisories on the second wave of Covid and then saying they did not get any information, holding massive election rallies in Kerala causing a spike in Covid cases while grandstanding about the election rallies elsewhere, supporting protests but speaking about following Covid guidelines,” the letter said. Nadda also cited a surge in Covid-19 cases in Congress-ruled state such as Punjab.
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On the Congress’s opposition to the Central Vista, Nadda said the need for a new Parliament was raised during the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance rule. He added the then speaker Meira Kumar underscored the need for a new parliament building. Nadda added Congress’s Chhattisgarh government was also going ahead with its plans of building a new assembly complex.
The Congress hit back at Nadda over the letter, with party general secretary Ajay Maken saying: “When the Congress is trying to play the role of a responsible opposition, the ruling party president writes a letter that smacks of usual arrogance. This is shameful.”
Congress MP Shashi Tharoor quoted German philosopher Hannah Arendt that “one of the greatest advantages of the totalitarian elites of the 1920s &1930s was to turn any statement of fact into a question of motive”. “Of course @JPNadda wasn’t born when Arendt wrote those words, but his BJP apologists resort routinely to this old technique!” he tweeted.
Interacting with the media, Maken said that whatever Congress leaders such as Rahul and Sonia Gandhi have been repeatedly saying about the Modi government’s handling of the pandemic, the Indian Medical Association, and international journals The Lancet and Nature have also echoed.