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Saturday, June 12, 2021

Covid rumblings within: BJP leaders in UP complain as govt puts up a brave face

Over the last few weeks, many of them have written to the Chief Minister with these complaints, prompting Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath, who has himself only recently recovered from Covid-19, to start visiting hotspot districts in the state and review arrangements.

Written by Liz Mathew , Harikishan Sharma , Maulshree Seth | Lucknow, New Delhi |
Updated: May 11, 2021 7:45:57 am
Family members taking care of Covid patients inside the Covid isolation ward at Muzaffarnagar district hospital in Uttar Pradesh.

As Uttar Pradesh continues to battle the second wave of Covid-19, there are growing voices of unease within the state BJP, with a number of MLAs and MPs raising questions about the state government’s handling of the situation — from shortage of hospital beds to alleged lack of cooperation from authorities to deal with the hundreds of SOS calls from their constituencies.

Over the last few weeks, many of them have written to the Chief Minister with these complaints, prompting Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath, who has himself only recently recovered from Covid-19, to start visiting hotspot districts in the state and review arrangements.

While Union Minister of State for Labour and Employment Santosh Gangwar’s May 6 letter to Adityanath complaining about poor Covid care in his Lok Sabha constituency, Bareilly, saw the CM taking stock of the situation in the district, earlier, Uttar Pradesh Cabinet Minister and Lucknow MLA Brijesh Pathak; BJP’s Bareilly MLA Kesar Singh who ultimately died of Covid; Mohanlalganj MLA Kaushal Kishore who lost his brother to Covid; Basti MP Haish Dwivedi; Bhadohi MLA Dinanath Bhaskar and Kanpur MP Satyadev Pachauri too had written such letters to the CM, pointing out the failure of the system and how they felt helpless as calls poured in with requests for hospital beds and medical supplies such as oxygen.

The party has had to suffer personal losses, with at least four BJP MLAs dying of Covid since the second wave started — Lucknow West’s Suresh Srivastava, Rae Bareli’s Dal Bahadur Kori, Bareilly’s Kesar Singh, Auraiya’s Ramesh Diwakar — and many others losing their relatives.

On Sunday, BJP’s Firozabad MLA Pappu Lodhi, who is himself Covid positive, had released a video on social media saying his Covid-positive wife had to spend 2-3 hours lying on the ground at S N Medical College Agra as she waited for a bed.

Uttar Pradesh, which has the fourth highest caseload in the country, both in terms of total (15 lakh) and active cases (2.25 lakh), has been reporting a severe shortage of healthcare resources. Among the worst affected districts of Uttar Pradesh are Lucknow, Kanpur Nagar, Varanasi, Prayagraj, Meerut, Gautam Buddha Nagar, Gorakhpur, Ghaziabad, Bareilly and Moradabad. These districts, represented by some of the biggest leaders in the BJP, including Prime Minister Narendra Modi (Varanasi) and Defence Minister Rajnath Singh (Lucknow), account for almost half (7.38 lakh) of the total 15.03 lakh Covid-19 cases recorded in the state.

A number of BJP leaders The Indian Express spoke to said they have been flooded with requests for help from their constituencies, but were unable to meet their demands.

While Mohanlalganj MP Kaushal Kishore said the situation has improved in the last three days, Meerut MP Rajendra Agarwal said “they were still racing against time” to meet the requirements of the people.

Some of the MPs also warned that the Covid situation in rural areas of the state could be “alarming” as many cases are not “getting recorded nor being handled properly”. “In the villages, things are getting bad. They are not only unaware of the situation, but also refusing to go to hospitals. The number of cases is going up there. We are trying to create awareness among them,” said Kishore.

BJP leader and Faizabad MP Lallu Singh, however, said the situation was easing over the last three days. “I used to get at least 150 calls a day till 1 am or so. Now it has come down to 20-25. District authorities are responding to calls now. During election time, there were issues. But now both the Prime Minister and the Chief Minister are seeing to it that the required facilities, including oxygen producing centres, are in place,” Singh said.

BJP MLA Mahesh Trivedi, who represents Kidwai Nagar constituency in Kanpur, too said the situation has improved over the last 4-5 days. “Earlier, my office would get 250-300 phone calls a day from people, seeking help for hospital beds, oxygen cylinders or medicines, but now I get 8-10 such calls daily,” Trivedi said.

The state government, on its part, has maintained that the situation is getting better. “The second wave, all of a sudden, presented a challenge before the state as well as the entire country. The situation is under control now. Over the last 10 days, active cases in the state have gone down by 85,000,” Adityanath said in Ayodhya on Monday.

Adityanath has so far visited four districts — Bareilly, Varanasi, Gorakhpur and Ayodhya — where he has inspected hospitals and reviewed the Covid management with officials and public representatives.

Sidharth Nath Singh, a Cabinet Minister in the Adityanath government, argued that while the state government has been building capacity, the rise in cases made their work tougher. “The ratio between capacity and requirement is around 1:10. Naturally there will be crisis,” Singh told The Indian Express.

But he argued that since the pandemic broke out, the state’s infrastructure and capacity have improved. Listing out the government’s efforts, he said nearly 60,000 paramedical staff are being trained to deal with the Covid situation; all districts have ventilator systems; 1,000 MT oxygen was supplied on Saturday; and that all 822 Community Health Centres in the state were given 20 oxygen cylinders each so that villagers could be treated immediately. “We were not sleeping,” he added.

While BJP leaders The Indian Express spoke to said the situation was easing, BSP leader and Saharanpur MP Haji Fazlur Rehman said there has been no let-up.

Saying he still gets 60-70 calls per day asking for help in getting oxygen cylinders and hospital beds, Rehman said, “Only two people are running around here to arrange things — the DM and the SP. Non-Covid patients are also dying due to lack of oxygen support. Vaccination is also not picking up.”

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