Congress leader Priyanka Gandhi Vadra on Wednesday called the government's vaccine strategy an "abject failure." She slammed the Centre's alleged lack of preparedness in dealing with the second wave of COVID-19 in the country. Gandhi said that the BJP-led government cannot shift the blame as Jawaharlal Nehru isn't in charge, Narendra Modi is.
"Today I do not think that there is any opposition leader who is not giving constructive and positive suggestions. And all the political parties are saying that we are with you (Centre)," said Gandhi.
She also criticised the Centre for not taking the opposition into confidence even when the nation is facing an unprecedented health crisis. Stressing that this is a moment for the entire country to stand together, Gandhi hit out at Modi's government for allegedly ridiculing his predecessor Manmohan Singh's recommendations.
Gandhi, in an interview, said, "Manmohan Singh Ji was Prime Minister for 10 years. Everyone knows how dignified a person he is. If he is giving suggestions... then suggestions should be taken up with the same dignity with which they were offered."
Gandhi said PM Modi must stop his "public relations exercise" and talk to the people and opposition parties over the COVID crisis.
The Centre was willing to talk to even Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence, but not to Opposition leaders, said Congress General Secretary in charge of Uttar Pradesh.
Constructive suggestions from opposition parties are being dismissed as politicisation rather than being accepted in the spirit that India is in crisis and, therefore, "all of us must stand together and do whatever we can to save lives regardless of our politics," the Congress General Secretary added.
Gandhi said, "They (government) are wasting time engaging in pettiness, making a minister respond to a letter addressed by a former prime minister who served this nation selflessly and with dignity to the present Prime Minister, Union Ministers are blaming state governments for increased oxygen consumption and central government press releases are targeting Opposition governments."
Thanks to 70 years of forward-thinking governance, today India is the largest manufacturer of vaccines in the world, said Gandhi.
She added, "The Union government enabled the export of 6 crore vaccines between January and March 2021. A huge PR exercise was conducted with photos of vaccines arriving in countries like Mauritius, Guyana and Nepal being circulated. During this same period, Indian citizens received only 3-4 crore doses."
"Why didn't the government prioritise Indians first? Why did the prime minister place self-promotion above the nation? In a state like UP with a 22 crore population, only 1 crore doses have been administered," the Congress General Secretary said.
Gandhi's remarks come two days after Union Health Minister Harsh Vardhan responded to former PM Manmohan Singh's suggestions on COVID-19 management, and alleged that the second wave of COVID was fuelled by Congress-ruled states as they were busy raising doubts about vaccines instead of vaccinating people.
The Modi government's lack of foresight has compelled India to become an importer of vaccines today and even now, their "vaccine strategy is flawed and discriminatory", Gandhi said.
"Why are free vaccines not being made available to 18-45-year-olds? The new variants are supposedly even more virulent, and many young people are affected. And why is the government allowing middlemen into the equation without price controls?" she said.
Gandhi said that foreign agencies purchased COVID vaccines from Indian manufacturers much before the Modi government. Several large countries have placed advance orders for vaccines twice the size of their population, she said, while adding that India placed its first order in January 2021. This is not a coherent strategy, it is an "abject failure", Gandhi said.
She asserted that Congress is firm in its commitment towards India to remain constructive and supportive during the COVID pandemic.
"We have not and will not politicise this unprecedented human tragedy under any circumstances. We will, however, continue to push the government to act, we will continue to raise issues that need to be addressed urgently to save lives, they can label us in whichever terms they like," Gandhi asserted.
"We fully understand our responsibility towards our country. Manmohan Singh Ji, the Congress President (Sonia Gandhi) and Rahul Ji have all offered our party's constructive cooperation to the prime minister time and again," she added.
India reported nearly 3 lakh COVID-19 cases in the highest single-day spike, with 2,023 deaths reported in the 24 hours. India's active caseload - with 2,95,041 fresh infections - has crossed the 21 lakh mark. India's tally of COVID-19 cases stands at 1,56,16,130 while the death toll has reached 1,82,553, as per the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare's data on Wednesday.
(With agency inputs)