Political slugfest erupts after Gujarat BJP chief offers free remdesivir
- On Friday, state BJP chief CR Patil organised some 5,000 vials of remdesivir and offered to distribute them free to people from the BJP office in Surat, while the state reeled under a severe shortage.
Amid a massive nationwide spike in Covid-19 cases, reports of severe shortage of remdesivir, a key antiviral drug, have triggered a political tug-of-war in Gujarat with the Congress demanding the arrest of state Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) chief CR Patil, who offered free injections of the drug.
On Friday, Patil organised some 5,000 vials of remdesivir and offered to distribute them free to people from the BJP office in Surat, while the state reeled under a severe shortage.
A controversy erupted over this with chief minister Vijay Rupani and his deputy Nitin Patel stating they were not aware how Patil managed the injections and that it was not part of the state’s procurement. The BJP defended Patil and said his aim was to help the people of Surat, suffering from shortage of the antiviral drug. The Congress, meanwhile, accused the government of indulging in politics over shortage of the drug.
On Monday, a Congress delegation, led by state unit chief Amit Chavda, called on Gujarat governor Acharya Devvrat and sought strict action against Patil for “flouting rules”. “No one knows how Patil procured 5,000 remdesivir injections. Is he having any licence to buy and store such critical drug in his premises? “How much money was spent (to buy the drug) and under which law it was procured? There is absolutely no information available about it,” Chavda told reporters.
Remdesivir continues to be used in India despite WHO recommending against its use, on the grounds that there is no evidence that it works. India has banned the export of remdesivir and its ingredients in an attempt to address the shortage — brought about, in part, by hoarding and indiscriminate use.
“It appears that one man is controlling the entire state. Since the BJP government is not taking any action, we urged the Governor to intervene in the matter. “We want the police to lodge an FIR and arrest Paatil for this illegal act so that others refrain from doing such acts in the future,” said Chavda.