The BJP, which is in power at the Centre, was more interested in winning elections than tackling the coronavirus crisis, Nawab Malik said.
Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) leader and Maharashtra minister Nawab Malik on Saturday alleged that the central government has asked export companies to not supply antiviral drug Remdesivir to the state even as Maharashtra continues to report the highest numbers of daily cases.
The BJP, which is in power at the Centre, was more interested in winning elections than tackling the coronavirus crisis, he said.
The BJP hit back saying that Nawab Malik should either give proof or apologise for the “false” and “baseless” allegations, and said the minister should step down from his post.
Mr Malik’s allegations come days after the Centre banned the export of Remdesivir injections amid a sudden spike in demand due to the massive surge in coronavirus cases. Remdesivir is listed for use in serious coronavirus patients in the Clinical Management Protocols for COVID-19 as an investigational therapy.
Taking to Twitter, Nawab Malik, the state minority affairs minister, said, “It is sad and shocking that when Government of Maharashtra asked 16 export companies for Remdesivir, we were told that the Central government has asked them not to supply the medicine to Maharashtra. These companies were warned, if they did, their license will be cancelled.”
He said this was a dangerous precedent and under these circumstances, the state government will have no choice but to seize the stock of Remdesivir from these exporters and supply it to the needy.
In his earlier tweets, he had said, “There are 16 export oriented units in the country that have 20 lakh vials of Remdesivir. Since exports are now banned by the government, these units are seeking permission to sell this medicine in the country, but the central government is denying the same.”
“The government says it should be sold through seven companies that are producing it. These seven companies are refusing to take responsibility. This is a decision-making crisis.
“While there is a requirement of this medicine and availability too, a quick decision is the need of the hour. This problem must be solved and the vials must be supplied to the government hospitals in all states immediately,” the NCP leader added.
Speaking to reporters later, Mr Malik said, “Maharashtra Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray was trying to speak to Prime Minister Narendra Modi over phone (on the issue), but was told that he (PM) is on a tour of West Bengal… This shows that the BJP is more interested in winning elections than tackling this crisis.”
When contacted, state BJP spokesperson Keshav Upadhaye reacted sharply saying, “Instead of making such wild and baseless allegations, Nawab Malik should provide proof or else he should apologise. It is high time that Maha Vikas Aghadi (MVA) stops the blame game and does its job of handling the pandemic.”
BJP MLA Atul Bhatkhalkar also said that Nawab Malik should provide proof of his allegations that Centre has asked the Remdesivir exporters not to sell their medicine in the state.
In a video message, he said, “Nawab Malik just said that the Centre has pressurised Remdesivir companies not to sell their exportable stock in Maharashtra or they will face action. I want Mr Malik to provide proof of it or he should resign from his post as state minority affairs minister.”
“Mr Malik’s allegations are nothing but absolute lies and shamelessness. He should also apologise to the citizens of the state. There is an acute shortage of beds and oxygen but the ministers are hiding,” he added.
Leader of Opposition in Maharashtra Legislative Council and BJP leader Pravin Darekar demanded Mr Malik’s resignation for making “false” accusations against the union government.
“Mr Malik has levelled these allegations simply to hide the incompetence of the state government. The people in the state are dying because of lack of oxygen supply. Nawab Malik made the charges to divert the attention,” he said.
“The minister should come give proof to support his allegations or step down from the post,” he said.
After the union government’s ban on exports of Remdesivir, a sizeable stock of which is in Maharashtra, the state government had requested the Centre to allow these companies to sell it in domestic market. Maharashtra Health Minister Rajesh Tope and Food and Drugs Administration minister Rajendra Shingane had admitted that the state would face a shortage of 12,000 to 15,000 vials till April 21.