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'Attention Starved, Absentee Politician': BJP Slams Rahul Gandhi for 'Lies' About Vaccine Shortage

Union Law Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad addresses a press conference, at BJP headquarters in New Delhi on December 7, 2020. (PTI Photo)

Union Law Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad addresses a press conference, at BJP headquarters in New Delhi on December 7, 2020. (PTI Photo)

BJP leader Ravi Shankar Prasad lashed out at Rahul Gandhi and asked him why he has not taken the jab.

Congress leader Rahul Gandhi on Friday became the target of top BJP leaders’ wrath over the issues of vaccine export and corruption in defence deals during the rule of the grand old party. Senior BJP leader and Union Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad hit out at the Gandhi scion saying, “India is not facing vaccine starvation but Rahul Gandhi is facing attention starvation."

Alleging that he has been lobbying with pharma companies, Prasad said, “After failing as a part-time politician, has Rahul Gandhi switched to full time lobbying? First he lobbied for fighter plane companies by trying to derail India’s acquisition programme. Now he is lobbying for pharma companies by asking for arbitrary approvals for foreign vaccines."

On the allegations of partisanship in vaccine allocation to states, the minister said, “Rahul Gandhi must know that shortage in Congress ruled states is not of vaccines but of basic commitment towards health care. He should write letters to his party’s governments to stop their vasooli ventures and concentrate on administering the lakhs of vaccines they are sitting upon."

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In a series of tweets, the BJP leader also lashed out at Gandhi and also went on to question, “Why has Rahul Gandhi not yet taken vaccine? Is it an oversight or he doesn’t want it or has he already taken one in many of his undisclosed trips to foreign locations but doesn’t want to disclose?"

Prasad was reacting to Rahul Gandhi’s letter to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, demanding an immediate moratorium on COVID-19 vaccine exports and opening up of the vaccination to “everyone who needs it". In the letter, Gandhi also sought more say to the state governments in vaccine procurement and distribution. In his letter, he slammed the Centre for bypassing the states “right from vaccine procurement to registration”. He further alleged, “Additionally, a large section of the poor have been excluded due to the initial mandatory online registration."

Gandhi also asked the prime minister to double the central allocation for vaccine procurement from the existing Rs 35,000 crore and give state governments a greater say in vaccine procurement and distribution. His suggestions came a day after Prime Minister Modi said vaccines will have to be prioritised due to limited supply and lamented that some people were playing politics on the issue. Questioning the government for permitting large-scale exports of vaccines, he said, “While our nation is facing vaccine starvation, more than six crore doses of vaccines have been exported."

Gandhi alleged that the state governments were repeatedly highlighting vaccine shortages only to receive intemperate statements by the union health minister. He accused the health minister of targeting Opposition-ruled states and undercutting cooperative federalism. “Was the export of vaccines also an ‘oversight’, like many other decisions of this government, or an effort to garner publicity at the cost of our own citizens," Gandhi asked.

Senior BJP leader Gajendra Singh Shekhawat also slammed the Congress leader and said, “Dear Rahul Gandhi ji, Please ask students without fear & nervousness. 1. Why no one takes you seriously? 2. How not to peddle lies about Vaccine shortage? 3. Why congress has been reduced to few seats? 4. What can you do to stay relevant?"

Meanwhile, calling Gandhi and “absentee politician", BJP leader Smriti Irani hit out at the Congress leader and tweeted, “Q) What defence scams did the globe trotting absentee politician’s family indulge in? A) Jeep deal, Bofors deal, AgustaWestland deal."

In another tweet, she wrote, “Dear students, Q) How does an absentee politician who has never held an honest job in his life manage to globe trot? A) The FAMILY chest brims with money looted from defence deals."

Irani was responding to Gandhi’s earlier tweet questioning the BJP-led government at Centre over Rafale deal, corruption and involvement of middlemen in defence deals. “Dear students, PM said answer questions without fear & nervousness. Please ask him to do the same: 1. Who took money in the #Rafale corruption scandal? 2. Who deleted the anti-corruption clauses in the contract? 3. Who gave middlemen access to key Defence Ministry documents?" Gandhi had tweeted.

Earlier on Tuesday, Gandhi took a swipe at the government over the Rafale fighter jet deal, saying karma is the ledger of one’s action and no one can escape it. He said this after a French media report claimed that 1.1 million Euros was paid to a “middleman" by the aircraft manufacturer, a charge that was denied by the BJP as baseless.

Gandhi has been alleging that commissions have been paid in the Rafale deal, which the government has denied. The Congress said Gandhi’s oft-repeated allegations of corruption in the deal were proved correct after the French media report.

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