KOLKATA: Reacting to Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee's jibe at the centre for sending "inadequate" supply of vaccines to West Bengal, the BJP Sunday retorted sharply, saying in fact several TMC leaders queued up for the jabs meant for healthcare personnel and frontline workers resulting in shortage of doses for the needy.
Several TMC leaders, including two MLAs, were among the people who received the COVID-19 vaccine in Purba Bardhaman district on Saturday, the opening day of the nationwide vaccination programme.
Many healthcare workers in the state had alleged that they could not get the jab though they were asked to come for it.
Amid natiowide launch of vaccination drive Saturday,Banerjee had expressed her dissatisfaction over "inadequate" number of COVID-19 vaccines supplied to West Bengal for the inoculation process and said her government, if needed, would supply the vaccines free of cost to the people.
"The vaccines sent by the central government are for healthcare staffers, police personnel and other frontline workers who are serving the society in the pandemic situation. Nearly 3.5 crore vials were dispatched by the centre across the country. These doses are not meant for political leaders."
"If these vaccines were taken by some TMC leaders,there would be a shortfall," BJP state unit president Dilip Ghosh told reporters Sunday.
Some TMC leaders are so scared of their lives that they jumped the gun, violating the norms, he quipped.
With the state elections around the corner, the saffron party launched a strong counter-offensive against the TMC on the vaccination exercise.
Elections to 294-member Bengal assembly are due in April- May this year hence even the much-awaited vaccination drive did not remain untouched from the ongoing political mudslinging in the poll-bound state.
Hours after Banerjee's allegations the previous day, BJP national general secretary Kailash Vijayvargiya had launched a broadside against the feisty Bengal leader, slamming her for making "baseless" allegations.
Vijayvargiya accused Banerjee of trying to politicise the vaccination programme ahead of the assembly polls.
"She should stop politicising everything. None of the states has complained only she is complaining about it. She is trying to politicize the issue before the assembly polls," Vijayvargiya told PTI.
He claimed that if the vaccines for the health workers fell short it was due to TMC leaders queuing up for the jabs.
According to a state government official, Bengal was supposed to receive over 10 lakh vaccines in the first phase, but have got 6.89 lakh doses so far.
Around 15,707 people were administered the first dose of the COVID 19 vaccine in the state on Saturday.
Taking a cue from the TMC supremo, TMC secretary general Partha Chatterjee attacked the BJP-led central government Sunday for making available less than required doses of vaccines to the state.
"The centre is not adequately supplying COVID vaccines to West Bengal. It is keeping control over the supplies. If needed, the state government will bear the cost of administering the vaccine to every person in the state," Chatterjee said.
Alleging that the BJP had not joined the fight against COVID-19 in the state, he said the saffron party's only agenda is to "carry out personal attacks in the run-up to the assembly polls".
Two TMC MLAs Subhash Mondal and Rabindranath Chatterjee and former TMC MLA Banamali Hazra were among the beneficiaries of vaccination drive on the day of launch Saturday in Purba Bardhaman district.
Chief Medical Officer of the district Pranab Roy, however, had said the public representatives who received the vaccines were part of the Patient Welfare Committees at different hospitals.
"Since they are associated with ensuring good services at the hospitals, they are also eligible for the vaccine. There is nothing irregular in it," he said.