Mamata accuses PM of allowing open market sale of vaccines after depleting stocks through gifts abroad

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(Eds Adding fresh details, adding dropped word in para 8) Bhagawangola/Sagardighi/Farakka (WB), Apr 20 (PTI) West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee on Tuesday said Prime Minister Narendra Modi has allowed open market sales of coronavirus vaccines after shipments made by him to foreign shores have depleted stocks in India.

Banerjee also hinted that election schedules were being drawn up to assist BJP, while voicing her displeasure at the rejection of her proposal to club elections in the remaining three phases.

Addressing an election meeting at Bhagwangola in Murshidabad district, the Trinamool Congress supremo said the prime minister had exported vaccines to other countries to boost his image while states like Maharashtra, Delhi, Rajasthan and West Bengal have struggled to get doses they required to combat the Covid pandemic.

'Yesterday the PM said the medicine (vaccine) will be available in open market. Where is the open market, where is the availability? You have already shipped out the majority of stock to foreign destinations,' she alleged.

The Central Government had gifted Covid vaccines to a number of countries including neighbouring nation and allowed export to many more including to Brazil and South Africa earlier this year.

Terming the Narendra Modi-led NDA government as a government of monumental incompetence', Banerjee said 'we are facing a huge deficit in vaccines due to the faulty planning.

The TMC supremo said more Covid cases are being reported from Kolkata, North 24 Parganas and Asansol belt and the state government is trying to manage the crisis from a limited stock.

'For six months the Central leadership did not bother to plan, they were busy plotting electoral battles in Bengal, Banerjee alleged.

Turning her guns on BJP, she claimed the party brought in 'lakhs of people from outside the state to help in campaigning and many of these people were infected with Covid.

These people will leave but they have spread the virus and the onus to manage the new crisis will be on us. Bengal's Covid situation was firmly under control but now the rate of infection is rising again.

However, she advised people not to panic, adding we will again bring it (pandemic) under a tight leash.' Stating that she had learnt that elections to two assembly seats in Murshidabad, which were countermanded due to the deaths of candidates, may be held on May 13, Banerjee said 'If Eid takes place on May 13, the EC should decide on a voting date keeping in mind the need of voters to celebrate the festival.

Referring to erosion of Ganges river in Murshidabad and Malda districts, Banerjee said 'only Central (policies) can stop the erosion.' 'Under the terms of the Indo-Bangla water treaty, Bangladesh was given Ganges water, but as the Centre did not dredge the Farakka barrage, it has silted. This has caused regular flooding in Bihar, Murshidabad and Malda whenever there are heavy rains in Bihar. The Centre should carry out dredging of Farakka on an urgent basis,' she said.

The Trinamool Congress supremo said 'we need to have a Ganga Erosion Board to work on war footing.' Urging the electorate to see Bengal doesn't fall into the hands of 'rioters , the chief minister alleged she had reports that there were plots to engineer riots on Ram Navami.

'Please be on guard. Don't fall prey to any bid to pit Hindus against Muslims,' she said.

Banerjee also urged the people 'not to vote for the Left, Congress or other Sanjukta Morcha candidates who are the other face of BJP.

At another rally in Farakka also in Murshidabad district, the chief minister accused BJP of opposing her proposal to club the remaining three phases of polling in view of a spike in covid cases. She also hinted that the poll schedules were drawn up to help the BJP.

'Some candidates were infected with COVID, two died...

The EC fixes the schedule to help Modibabu (Narendra Modi),' she alleged.

'If election takes place, there has to be campaigning.

One day voting would have reduced the spread of infection and helped people, Banerjee reasoned.

Elaborating on her claims about secret understanding between parties of Sanjukta Morcha and BJP, she said at Sagardighi 'it is nothing but another morcha with BJPs blessings.' PTI SUS JRC JRC