Chief minister (CM) Uddhav Thackeray on Sunday put his former ally Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in his line of fire for playing politics while the state government is battling against the Covid-19 pandemic. Two days after BJP staged a protest against the Maha Vikas Aghadi (MVA), Thackeray, in his address to the state on Sunday afternoon, said that his government will not indulge in politics “as it does not suit the culture of Maharashtra”. The CM added that Covid-19 cases in the state are likely to increase by May end.
Since last week, the state is recording over 2,000 new cases daily, but the Centre’s projection that Maharashtra would have around 1.25-1.50 lakh cases has not come true. Thackeray said that the state is prepared to tackle the surge in cases.
“These are testing times, nobody should indulge in politics now. Even if you do, we will not because the people of Maharashtra have faith in us,” Thackeray said.
“I have honestly said the Centre is helping us. But GST refund is yet to reach us, should I make it an issue? Earlier PPE kits were not coming. There is still a deficiency in the supply of medicines. We are yet to get the money for the trains…Just playing politics for the sake of it does not suit the culture of Maharashtra…” the CM said.
The BJP, led by former chief minister Devendra Fadnavis, had staged Maharashtra Bachao (Save Maharashtra) agitation on May 22 and demanded a financial package worth Rs 50,000 crore for farmers and daily wage earners.
In a veiled jibe at the Opposition party, Thackeray said that the state government is not going to announce “empty packages” but do “actual” work. “Some people are asking why have you not announced a package? Till now many packages [by the BJP] worth crores have been announced. They are packaged nicely but when you open, it is an empty box. The MVA government does not announce empty packages,” he said.
Following Thackeray’s address, BJP leader Ashish Sheler took to Twitter and said, “The CM says first they will defeat corona and then announce package. This is like saying giving water to someone after he dies. He earlier said they would defeat corona before monsoon, now he says numbers are going to increase. Earlier he said Central team has given no projection, now he says numbers are lower than their projection. Sir, daily the direction and speeches are changing. Who is he actually telling not to do politics? To MP Sanjay Raut and minister Jayant Patil?”
Thackeray also outlined the state government’s steps taken for the people and migrant labourers including widening the scope of Shiv Bhojan scheme, following up with the Centre to give food grains for people who do not have ration cards, Mahatma Jyotiba Phule Jan Aarogya Yojana, etc. He said that 5.5 to 6 lakh migrant workers have been provided food till now.
“The public insurance scheme gives 100% free treatment to all. This is a package, should we announce it and advertise or should we keep working?” said Thackeray.
The CM added, “Cases will increase. We have created hospital infrastructure for it. By the end of May, we will make 14,000 beds available. We already have 7,000 beds, including 3,000 in our field hospitals.”
The CM also said that he has sought more time from the civil aviation ministry to prepare for the resumption of domestic air travel in the state. “Today morning I spoke to [Hardeep Singh] Puri and told him that let’s get an estimate… of how the passengers would come; what measures would you [Centre/ministry of civil aviation] take, what measures do we [state government] would need to take. If we have to reopen the airport, what would be the required of staff, etc,” he said.
A tweet by the chief minister’s office stated that Thackeray spoke to Puri on the resumption of domestic flights: “He [Thackeray] communicated his views that till the time MIAL plans and fine tunes airport operations, they should initiate minimum possible domestic flights from Maharashtra from May 25th which are purely emergent in nature like for international transfer passengers, medical emergencies, students, and cases on compassionate grounds.”
Thackeray said that imposing lockdown immediately and lifting it in a go is akin to “putting axe on both your feet”. He said that just as the state went into a graded lockdown in March, the lifting of the lockdown would happen gradually. He hinted that there could be more relaxations after May 31, when the fourth phase of the lockdown ends.
The CM also appealed to people to celebrate Eid inside their homes and not come on the streets. “Several exemptions have been made but it’s important not to crowd shops when they open. We will still need to follow instructions. Congregations, religious functions are still not allowed. Celebrate at home to emerge out of this situation in a better and effective way,” he said.