After “PM Busy In Bengal” Charge, Minister Responds To Uddhav Thackeray

Mr Thackeray’s call came two days after he wrote to the centre, asking for help in airlifting oxygen from other parts of the country and in providing financial relief for poorer sections of the society

After 'PM Busy In Bengal' Charge, Minister Responds To Uddhav Thackeray

Mumbai/New Delhi:

Maharashtra Chief Minister Uddhav Thackery – battling to contain a frightening spike in coronavirus cases in his state – reportedly tried to reach out to Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Saturday to discuss the shortage of oxygen cylinders for critically ill Covid patients.

Sources said Mr Thackeray tried to initiate a phone call with the Prime Minister, but was told he was away – as Maharashtra and nearly a dozen other states struggle to deal with the pandemic’s next wave – to campaign for the BJP in the Bengal Assembly election.

It is unclear if the Prime Minister’s Office has scheduled a conversation on this subject for later.

Mr Thackeray’s call came two days after he wrote to the centre, asking for help in airlifting oxygen from other parts of the country and in providing financial relief for poorer sections of the society.

The ruling BJP has responded swiftly, accusing Mr Thackeray and his government of “low-level politics” and “playing blame games”. Union Minister Piyush Goyal led the charge, declaring himself “saddened” by the Chief Minister’s “gimmicks” and calling his government “inept and corrupt”.

“Maharashtra has so far received the highest quantity of oxygen in India… Centre is in daily touch… just yesterday PM Modi told centre and states to work together… saddened to see petty politics being played by Uddhav Thackeray,” Mr Goyal tweeted.

He also said national oxygen production was at a mathematically startling “110 per cent”.

Top government sources told NDTV the centre had “to finally respond… after daily taunts and tantrums” by the state that had made “petty and untrue allegations against the Prime Minister”.

The Prime Minister’s busy campaign schedule – he has addressed multiple rallies across Assam, Bengal and Tamil Nadu – all states holding Assembly elections – in the past few weeks – has raised eyebrows, particularly as many of these poll events openly violated Covid containment protocols that he, and other senior members of his government, have repeatedly urged people to follow.

Visuals shared by news agency ANI show thousands of people without face masks and standing shoulder-to-shoulder with absolutely no regard for social distancing. Election Commission rules demanding venues be disinfected and hand sanitisers be provided are also apparently ignored.

These events – including those by Home Minister Amit Shah and Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee – have also been held as the coronavirus pandemic threatens to spiral out of control; this morning, for the third successive day, India reported over two lakh new cases in 24 hours.

Maharashtra – with over six lakh active cases – is struggling on multiple fronts, including a rising demand for oxygen cylinders – a demand that, if unmet, could be fatal for many Covid patients.

The shortfall in oxygen cylinders – needed to help people with advanced COVID-19 symptoms, who are often unable to breathe on their own – has been vigorously red-flagged by other states too, including BJP-ruled Madhya Pradesh, in the past few days.

Late Friday night, after days of insisting there is no shortage, the centre issued its third emergency order in 24 hours, including authorising the import of 50,000 metric tonnes of oxygen.

Hours earlier the Prime Minister held a review meeting with senior government officials, and was briefed about the centre’s efforts to rapidly scale up production and supply of oxygen cylinders.

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