Bengal Chief Minister and Trinamool supremo Mamata Banerjee has upped the ante in the last phases of the campaign accusing the Bharatiya Janata Party of being responsible for the rising cases of coronavirus in the state.
The TMC supremo has blamed Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s ‘irresponsible attitude’ for the rise in infections across India, and Bengal, and alleged that the Centre’s ‘non-cooperation’ is leading to burgeoning cases in the state.
She lashed out at the BJP, blaming the party’s high-decibel campaign for the increase in COVID-19 cases in the state. She said the party’s candidates were conducting door-to-door campaigns and taking the infection to the people’s doorstep.
She has demanded the prime minister’s resignation for ‘mishandling of the COVID-19 second wave’ and alleged that the prime minister failed in planning to contain the rise in the number of infections.
She blamed the central government for the shortage of oxygen, vaccines and medicines, like Remdesivir, and targeted Modi for exporting vaccines to 80 countries, adding that the prime minister is concerned only about his image-building exercise in the global community.
The TMC has alleged that BJP was bringing in ‘outsiders infected with the virus’ during campaigning without bothering to conduct COVID-19 tests and they were responsible for the spread of the disease.
Mamata also shot off a strongly worded letter to the prime minister on Sunday urging his immediate intervention to make available the supply of vaccine, medicine and oxygen so that West Bengal can scale up the vaccination process and provide adequate treatment to the people.
She also demanded that central security personnel on election duty be subjected to RT-PCR tests.
West Bengal on April 20 registered its highest single-day spike of 9,819 new COVID-19 cases, taking the tally to 6,78,172, the state health department said in its bulletin. The number of new infections in a day has more than doubled in the last eight days.
All the parties and their big leaders have announced either cancellation or significant curbing of poll campaigns.
The TMC chief is also alleging that the Centre is not providing funds that she has asked for to fight the Covid menace, and instead, diverting a major portion of the money to BJP-ruled states.
Mamata also expressed dissatisfaction over the ‘inadequate’ number of vaccines given to the state. On Tuesday, she wrote a second letter to the prime minister in three days, criticizing the central government over its COVID-19 vaccine policy, terming it as ‘hollow, without any substance and regrettable show of evasion of responsibility’.
At an election rally on Wednesday in Dakshin Dinajpur district, she called the aggressive second wave of coronavirus cases in India a ‘Modi-made disaster’. She further asserted that the state would be governed by a ‘Bengal engine government’ and not by ‘Modi’s double-engine’.
With three more phases to go, Mamata Banerjee has decided to weaponize and politicize the resurgence of COVID against the BJP and make it a big election issue.
This is a last ditch effort after the failure of her ‘insider versus outsider’ and ‘Bengal’s own daughter’ campaign.
After her theatrics, such as accusing the BJP for her foot injury and holding a dharna against the Election Commission, came a cropper, she has decided to change tack.
With the rising cases she is demanding clubbing of the remaining two phases. (The 6th phase happens on Thursday, April 22. 7th and 8th phases on April 26 and 29, respectively.)
By applying pressure she has forced the BJP to tweak the prime minister's schedule in which no more than 500 people will be able to attend his rallies. On the other hand, she hasn’t curtailed her schedule much, as alleged by the BJP. Both Mamata and her nephew conducted 6 rallies on Tuesday, BJP alleges.
This act of blaming the BJP for the COVID situation in Bengal could backfire like the leg injury and dharna incidents. Health is a state subject. The EC has not 'taken over day-to-day governance of any state, including Bengal'. Testing, medical facilities, government hospitals, everything is still in the control of TMC.
Mamata hasn’t attended any COVID management meetings chaired by the prime minister in the last three months.
Amit Malviya, party's co-in charge of West Bengal, slammed Mamata Banerjee for carrying out propaganda to belittle the Centre's efforts to arrest the spread of COVID-19.
‘Mamata Banerjee has not attended a single Covid management meet held in the last 3 months held between the prime minister and the chief ministers because she is busy ‘campaigning’. Reflects her seriousness when it comes to managing COVID in West Bengal. For the records, she also holds the health portfolio,’ he tweeted.
‘She has not only failed to utilise the quota of vaccines sent to WB, but also scaled down the number of COVID beds (down to 7,776 in Apr as compared to 13,588 in Dec) and treatment facilities across the state. All she does is write letters to the prime minister for narrow politics...,’ the BJP leader added.
Mamata should think twice over politicising a serious health issue like coronavirus. It exposes her lack of seriousness in tackling the issue and also the poor administrative capability of the TMC government. This confrontationist attitude could give credence to the ‘double engine ki sarkaar’ theory of the BJP.
A section of voters could feel that Mamata is playing the victim card always by pinning blame on the Centre. People of Bengal are deprived of central schemes and assistance during the pandemic. They could think of ending this duality (different party governments in the state and at the centre) which has been plaguing Bengal for more than 4 decades now.
This also shows the nervousness of Mamata as she is trying to use a sensitive issue like COVID for political gains.
She forgets that the voter is very smart and can see through her plans. She can’t escape responsibility for the mishandling of COVID and accountability for the anti-incumbency against the TMC government in the state.
Her deflection tactics may not work and this strategy may backfire.