Coronavirus | Cong. unhappy at NCP leader’s ‘premature’ announcement on free vaccines

The declaration should not have come at a time when the matter was under CM’s consideration: Balasaheb Thorat

A day after senior Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) leader and Maharashtra Minister Nawab Malik said the Maharashtra government was in favour of providing free vaccination for its citizens above 18 years, the announcement has triggered a schism within the tripartite Maha Vikas Aghadi government, with the Congress on Monday expressing displeasure over the NCP leader’s statement.

Disapproving of Mr. Malik’s ‘premature’ announcement, Revenue Minister and senior Congress leader Balasaheb Thorat said that while the Congress too was eager that all citizens between 18 and 45 years must be given free vaccines, the declaration should not have come at a time when the matter was under active consideration by Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray.

“We did not like the fact that someone who was eager to take credit should have made a premature announcement. The Congress expresses its displeasure over this,” said Mr. Thorat, the former Maharashtra Pradesh Congress Committee (MPCC) chief.

At the same time, he stressed that the Congress had already recommended that all citizens above 18 years be given free vaccines and said the party was certain that the Chief Minister would consider the Congress’ suggestions.

Sena cautious

The Shiv Sena too chose to tread warily to Mr. Malik’s pronouncement; minutes after tweeting about “free Covid-19 vaccination in Maharashtra” as his government’s duty to protect citizens from the virus, State Cabinet Minister Aaditya Thackeray on Sunday immediately deleted his tweet and apologised for creating “confusion.”

In his new post, the younger Mr. Thackeray said he did not wish to create any confusion regarding the “official vaccination policy of Maharashtra that would be fully ensuring fast, efficient vaccination and would leave nobody behind.”

“I have deleted the earlier tweet as to not cause confusion regarding the official vaccination policy of Maharashtra that would be fully ensuring fast, efficient vaccination and would leave nobody behind,” Mr. Thackeray said in his new tweet.

Sena MP and spokesperson Sanjay Raut too gave a cautious response, remarking that it was up to the MVA leadership to decide and that he could not comment on the issue as he was not part of the government in any ministerial capacity.

He instead appealed to the opposition not to play politics and stand shoulder to shoulder with the Chief Minister and the rest of the MVA leadership in helping combat the pandemic.

‘Different voices’

Meanwhile, the opposition BJP pounced on Mr. Aaditya Thackeray’s deleted tweet, with Leader of the Opposition and former Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis questioning its meaning at a time when the MVA allies were speaking in different voices over the provision of free vaccines.

“There are different statements being made by the leaders of the three alliance parties … Aaditya Thackeray deletes his tweet after declaring that providing free vaccines to Maharashtra’s citizens is his government’s duty. What does all this signify?” said Mr. Fadnavis, in a pointed remark.

BJP MLC Gopichand Padalkar too targeted Mr. Thackeray over his deleted tweet, remarking that he hoped the MVA government was not planning to roll back on its decision.

On Saturday, Mr. Malik said the MVA government would float a global tender to procure the “best vaccine at the best possible price” and that the State government would need to purchase a total of 14-15 crore vials for the third phase of the vaccination drive.

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