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After Uddhav Thackeray’s “PM busy in Bengal” allegation Centre categorically responds

By Saima Siddiqui 
Updated Date

Mumbai: Maharashtra Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray’s fresh allegations against Prime Minister Narendra Modi finally reached New Delhi as on Saturday Union Ministers Dr Harsh Vardhan and Piyush Goyal responded to reports alleging that Maharashtra CM was turned away from speaking to PM while the former wanted to discuss the lack of oxygen cylinders for critically ill Covid patients in his state.

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Dr Vardhan tweeted to say he had reached out to Mr Thackeray and assured him that Maharashtra, the worst-affected state in the country, would get an “adequate and uninterrupted supply of medical oxygen”, and that the Centre would send 1,121 ventilators.

“Spoke to Maharashtra Chief Minister Uddhav Thackerayji… Reassured (him) of adequate & uninterrupted supply of medical oxygen & all possible support with reference to healthcare infrastructure, medicines & therapeutics…,” Dr Vardhan tweeted.

Reiterated the need to focus on the 5 pillars “Test, Track, Treat, Covid Appropriate Behaviour & Vaccination” to tide over the emergent health crisis.

This was shortly after Dr Vardhan’s cabinet colleague – Railways Minister Piyush Goyal – accused Mr Thackeray of “petty politics” and called 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 wrote in a social media post.

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

Earlier 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 entire episode broke after sources said Mr Thackeray dialed the Prime Minister’s Office in Delhi but was told Prime Minister Modi was in Bengal to campaign for the BJP in state polls.

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 violated Covid containment protocols that he, and other senior members of his government, have repeatedly urged people to follow.

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.

Visuals shared by media houses 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.

Separately, the Centre has blamed failure to adhere to these protocols as the reason for the spike.

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.

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 PM held a review meeting with top government officials, and was briefed about the Centre’s efforts to rapidly scale up production and supply of oxygen cylinders.

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