Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Friday expressed his displeasure over Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal’s decision to telecast his comments live during a meeting the PM was holding with 10 CMs on the pandemic situation.
“This is strictly against our tradition, our protocol... that some Chief Minister is showing a live telecast of an in-house meeting… This is not appropriate. One should always maintain restraint,” Modi said.
During the meeting, Kejriwal warned that a dire tragedy could be on the cards as major hospitals face oxygen shortage. The CM also objected to different rates being charged to state governments and the Centre for Covid-19 vaccines, saying a “one nation, one rate” policy should be enforced.
Kejriwal’s slip-up, which he explained later but stopped short of apologising for, led to outrage by the Bharatiya Janata Party which charged him with trying to politicise a humanitarian crisis.
Later, the Aam Aadmi Party clarified that it had no intention of making the CM’s statement at what was essentially a closed-doors meeting, public. In the video which was released ‘by mistake’, Kejriwal can be heard saying: “People are in major pain due to oxygen shortage. We fear a big tragedy may happen due to oxygen shortage and we will never be able to forgive ourselves. I request you with folded hands to direct all CMs to ensure smooth movement of oxygen tankers coming to Delhi… We need a national plan to deal with the crisis. The Centre should take over all oxygen plants through the Army and every tanker coming out of the oxygen plant should be accompanied by an Army escort vehicle.”
Amid the rising political heat in the capital, with patients being turned away from hospitals because of lack of oxygen and ventilator, the CM was trying to tell voters the shortages were not his government’s fault but a result of the Centre’s uncaring attitude to the restrictions states like Uttar Pradesh and Haryana had put on the movement of oxygen trucks to Delhi.
This was just one instance of the way state governments have been attempting to shift blame for the management of the public health emergency on other forces — including the Centre.
At the other end of the spectrum, Odisha CM Naveen Patnaik publicly said the government of Odisha would do everything to cooperate with the Centre in supplying oxygen to the rest of India.
“It is a war-like situation and Odisha will extend all cooperation in the fight against Covid-19 at the national level including ramping up oxygen production to assist other states in this emergency situation,” Patnaik told the PM.
Odisha has around 70 industries, many of which produce industrial oxygen. Rourkela Steel Plant, Jindal Steel and Power at Angul and IFFCO in Paradeep are prominent among them.
Both Kejriwal and Maharashtra CM Uddhav Thackeray have thanked Patnaik profusely. There is hardly any doubt that Odisha’s gesture will be used by the Biju Janata Dal for political purposes — also to gain leverage with the Centre — in the future.