New Delhi: Prime Minister Narendra Modi today met with the Chief Ministers of the 11 states worst hit by the deadly second wave of Covid on a day India touched a new record of 3.32 lakh cases and 2,263 deaths in 24 hours. His discussion with Arvind Kejriwal, which went live on TV for some time, became controversial as the Delhi Chief Minister talked about the capital’s crippling oxygen crisis and the central government later accused him of using the platform to “play politics” and “spread lies”.
As PM Modi objected to an “in-house meeting” being telecast live, Mr Kejriwal expressed “regret”.
In parts of the meeting beamed live, Arvind Kejriwal said a “big tragedy” could happen because of the oxygen shortage in Delhi hospitals and said to the Prime Minister: “Please sir, we need your guidance.”
He said oxygen tankers were being stopped from entering the city.
“People in major pain due to oxygen shortage. We fear a big tragedy may happen due to oxygen shortage and we will never be able to forgive ourselves. I request you with folded hands to direct all Chief Ministers to ensure smooth movement of oxygen tankers coming to Delhi,” Mr Kejriwal said.
“Will people of Delhi not get oxygen if there is no oxygen-producing plant here? Please suggest whom should I speak to in the central government when an oxygen tanker meant for Delhi is stopped in another state,” he said.
Mr Kejriwal urged PM Modi to facilitate the airlift of oxygen from West Bengal and Odisha to resolve the shortage in Delhi.
“PM Sir, please, do make a phone call to the Chief Minister of the state where maximum trucks (tankers carrying oxygen) are being stopped so oxygen can reach Delhi.” The Chief Minister called for a national policy to tackle the crisis.
Government sources said the interaction was not meant to be televised and accused Mr Kejriwal of “descending to a new low”.
“For the first time, private conversations of PM’s meeting with Chief Ministers is being televised. His entire speech was not meant for any solution but for playing politics and evading responsibility,” said the sources.
Top sources said Mr Kejriwal raised the point of airlifting oxygen but “did not know” it is already being done. The centre, they said, had done more to provide beds and oxygen than the Delhi government.
“He chose to spread lies on vaccine prices despite knowing that centre does not keep even one vaccine dose and shares with states only,” they said.
“All Chief Ministers spoke about what they are doing to improve the situation. However Kejriwal had nothing to speak on what he is doing.”
They also accused the Delhi Chief Minister of “yawning and laughing” during a previous meeting on Covid with PM Modi.
On the point about the telecast, the Chief Minister’s office said: “Today, the chief minister’s address was shared live because there has never been any instruction, written or verbal, from the central government that the said interaction could not be shared live. There have been multiple occasions of similar interactions where matters of public importance which had no confidential information were shared live. However, if any inconvenience was caused we highly regret that.”
Several Delhi hospitals have been flagging crises of oxygen, beds and medicines on social media and have even approached court for help.