Durgapur (WB): West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee on Friday said she would have participated in the meeting between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the chief ministers of states with the highest burden of COVID-19 cases, had she been invited.
Addressing a press conference here, Banerjee said she heard that Friday”s meeting on the COVID situation was meant for the worst-hit states, and hence she was not told about it.
Chairing a meeting on the COVID-19 situation with chief ministers of 11 states and Union Territories with the maximum COVID-19 cases, Modi called for working together to fight the pandemic with collective power.
The Trinamool Congress supremo alleged that the Centre”s “inept handling has led to the present situation”.
“On March 7, Union Health Minister Harsh Vardhan had said COVID is on its way out. It means that the central government had no inkling about the impending crisis. It did not act on the recommendations of the World Health Organization to ramp up the stock of oxygen,” she asserted.
Alleging that Gujarat got 60 per cent of free vaccines, while other states received a little, she said, “We have nothing to say against one of the worst-hit states, but there should be a uniform policy.”
She said the Centre could have arranged for free vaccination for every citizen of the country by spending around Rs 20,000 crore but it did not.
“When you (BJP leaders) have spent lakhs of rupees to book hotels, guest houses, charter flights and choppers and offered cash to voters to capture Bengal and hatch a conspiracy to win the elections here, could you not spend Rs 20,000 crore for the health of every Indian?” she asked.
Banerjee said the state will now procure additional 5,000 oxygen cylinders for hospital use.
The CM said the Centre has adopted a “step-motherly attitude” towards West Bengal in allocating oxygen cylinders.
Banerjee alleged that the BJP was disrupting the polling by involving central forces.
“Seven of my polling agents were kidnapped yesterday at Jagaddal to disrupt free and fair voting. Nothing was done. Security forces were influenced to open fire in another area,” she claimed.
Asserting that her party was ready to extend all cooperation to the Election Commission, Banerjee said, “I have cancelled today”s public meetings after the EC issued fresh directives on Thursday.”
Noting that the COVID safety norms were being flouted in West Bengal during campaigning, the Election Commission banned roadshows and vehicle rallies in the state with immediate effect and said no public meeting having more than 500 people would be allowed.
“The EC always issues orders late in the evening, perhaps keeping in mind the itinerary of the PM. But, we are quick to abide by the norms as we work for the interest of people,” she claimed.
Six rounds of the eight-phased assembly elections in West Bengal have already taken place, and the remaining two will be held on April 26 and 29.
The CM reaffirmed that the Election Commission should have conducted the assembly polls in five phases by clubbing the last three phases into one and said that “the poll panel acted at the behest of the BJP.”