CHANCHAL/HARIRAMPUR/BALURGHAT (WEST BENGAL): West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee on Wednesday sharpened her attack on the prime minister over the resurgence of Covid-19, terming it a "Modi-made disaster" and demanded that he quit if unable to provide adequate medical supplies to combat the disease.
She also ruled out the possibility of a lockdown in the state amid spurting COVID-19 cases and said a universal vaccination drive for people aged 18 years and above will start from May 5. She alleged that 65 per cent of the drugs manufactured in the country for tackling the pandemic have already been exported.
"The COVID-19 pandemic had subsided in the country but has surged in a second wave owing to the monumental failure of the central government and negligence and total incompetence on its part," she said addressing public meetings at Chanchal in Malda and at Harirampur in Dakshin Dinajpur districts.
As the Election Commission did not accede to Trinamool Congress' request to hold the last three of the eight-phase election in West Bengal on a single day, Banerjee said she is forced to combat the sharp rise in infections in the state as its chief minister as well campaign for Trinamool Congress, her party.
Later, addressing a press conference in Malda, she said a lockdown will not be imposed but underscored the need for following COVID-appropriate behaviour. "We are not in favour of a lockdown. We want everyone to adhere to COVID norms such as wearing masks, social distancing and using sanitisers. We don't want people to go back to those days of staying back at home. Lockdown is not a solution as it takes a heavy toll on people, jobs and economy," she said.
She also said she will write a "strong letter" to Modi over "discriminatory" prices of COVID vaccines to be supplied by manufacturers to the Centre and states. The chief minister said around one crore people have so far been vaccinated against COVID in the state.
Hitting out at Prime Minister Narendra Modi at her election rallies, Banerjee said, "The country is facing a Modi-made disaster. Modi Babu will have to take responsibility. Why medicines to treat COVID-19 are not available? You have to provide medicines or leave the chair. Either you control Corona or move out."
"The second COVID wave is more intense. There are no injections or oxygen. Vaccines and medicines are being shipped abroad even as there is a scarcity of these items in the country. It is not a man-made disaster, it is Modi made," she earlier told a rally at Balurghat in Dakshin Dinajpur district.
Alleging that 65 per cent of drugs manufactured in the country to treat coronavirus have been exported, she said, while medicines may be given to other countries, it has to be also ensured that Indians get adequate supply on a priority basis.
"The BJP is attempting to break the spine of Bengal (but) we (TMC) have resolved to break its backbone," the feisty TMC supremo claimed, adding that none other than her party had the strength to fight Modi. "Bengal is the land of Royal Bengal Tiger and we fight like one," Banerjee asserted.
The chief minister claimed that her government has done a lot for the welfare of Rajbanshis, an ethnic group inhabiting parts of North Bengal, Assam and Meghalaya, and minorities in the state. Banerjee urged the people "not to allow division of votes" and to unitedly support the TMC.
She said that if the TMC is re-elected for a third consecutive term, her government will arrange soft loans of up to Rs 10 lakh for higher education.
Addressing a gathering in the Muslim-dominated Malda district, Banerjee asked the electorate to cast their votes in favour of the TMC irrespective of their religious beliefs as it is the "only party which has not allowed any division on grounds of religion".
There is "no one else in the market" that can provide a government which will protect religious faith and rights of all people other than the TMC, Banerjee asserted and urged people not to divide anti-BJP votes by supporting the Congress or the Left Front.
Earlier addressing an election rally at Balurghat, the TMC chief asserted that West Bengal will be run only by a "Bengal engine government" and not by "Modi's double-engine". "We will not allow Gujarat to capture our state or run it from Delhi. Bengal will rule Bengal," she said.
The term "double-engine government" often used by BJP leaders denotes the government of the same party at the Centre and the state. The TMC chief also urged people not to vote for Left- Congress-ISF alliance candidates claiming that voting for them will strengthen the BJP's hand.
She said that her administration is finding it difficult to set up safe homes for COVID patients as many government buildings are being used to house central forces. Banerjee claimed that the BJP is saying different things at different places on the Citizenship (Amendment) Act and the National Register of Citizens (NRC).