Targeting Opposition, BJP Says Political Row Over Indigenous Covid-19 Vaccine Helping 'Foreign Forces'

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The BJP on Monday accused some opposition parties, including the Congress, of helping "foreign forces" with their criticism of the approval process for the indigenous COVID-19 vaccine, alleging that they do not want India to be self-reliant, a centrepiece project of Prime Minister Narendra Modi. BJP spokesperson Sambit Patra told a press conference that while India is happy with the approval of two coronavirus vaccines, Congress leaders have become "rumour mongers" and have tried their best to create "chaos".

Scientific and government bodies associated with the vaccines have given statements to dispel any doubt but the Opposition is trying to politicise the issue, he said, noting that the WHO has also praised the development. He also hit out at Samajwadi Party president Akhilesh Yadav, who had dubbed the vaccines as "BJP's vaccines", but mainly targeted the Congress for speaking "lies" and spreading confusion over the issue.

Nothing can be more painful than the politics being done on the issue, Patra said. Noting that foreign media has referred to the row over India's indigenous vaccine, he asked rhetorically who will benefit from it.

Patra then said, "This will benefit foreign forces. This will benefit outsiders. Who will it harm? It will harm our country, the strength of our scientists and their self-confidence. Why do the Congress and these opposition parties want to break our scientists' strength and self-confidence?" The BJP spokesperson claimed that whenever India is happy the Congress is unhappy and referred to its alleged criticism of institutions like the Election Commission and the Supreme Court to say that the opposition party has no trusts in anybody but the Gandhi family. Referring to the statements of Congress leaders like Shashi Tharoor and Jairam Ramesh, both of whom had questioned the verification process for Bharat Biotech's vaccine Covaxin, Patra attacked Rahul Gandhi, alleging that he is abroad on "vacation" and prompting his party leaders to engage in rumour mongering about the vaccines.

The Congress has said Gandhi has gone abroad to see a sick relative. Mocking the Congress over its process to elect a new party president, Patra said the coronavirus will be soon gone, water will be discovered on Mars someday and people will start living on Moon but a Congress president will still not be elected.

To a question about Income Tax officials recording the statement of interim Congress president Sonia Gandhi's son-in-law Robert Vadra in connection with its probe against him under the benami assets law, Patra said he has committed "corruption". On Sunday, Congress chief spokesperson Randeep Surjewala lauded scientists and researchers of Bharat Biotech for the indigenous vaccine but the party's senior leaders like Anand Sharma, Jairam Ramesh and Shashi Tharoor raised concern over the grant of approval to its vaccine without the phase 3 trials, saying it is "premature" and can prove dangerous.

Their remarks triggered a sharp reaction from the BJP with its president J P Nadda alleging that the opposition party is in the habit of undermining India's achievements. On Sunday, India's drugs regulator approved Oxford COVID-19 vaccine Covishield, manufactured by the Serum Institute, and indigenously developed Covaxin of Bharat Biotech for restricted emergency use in the country.