Mumbai: Sporting blacks face masks, bands and jackets, the opposition Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) launched the ‘Maharashtra Bachao' agitation, carrying banners and posters criticizing the ruling Maha Vikas Aghadi (MVA) for its failure to handle the Covid-19 pandemic, here on Friday.
Leading the agitation in Mumbai, Leader of Opposition Devendra Fadnavis also demanded a Rs 50,000 crore package for farmers, labourers and unorganized sector workers who are hit due to the Covid-19.
Braving the high summer temperatures, other party leaders elsewhere including state BJP chief Chandrakant Patil, turned the heat on Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray and the Shiv Sena-Nationalist Congress Party-Congress alliance for falling short on all fronts to tackle the pandemic.
Citing figures, Fadnavis alleged that though Maharashtra has 30 per cent of all patients and 40 per cent of all Covid-19 deaths in the country, the MVA has been unsuccessful in tackling the crisis.
"The hospitals are full, there are no ambulances available, there is no food in quarantine centres, private hospitals are charging exorbitant amounts due to which the common people are unable to afford Covid-19 treatment. But the government has done nothing despite the seriousness of the crisis," he said.
He demanded that the government must treat all Covid-19 patients free of cost, all private hospitals must mandatorily admit such patients and 80 per cent of beds in private healthcare institutions must be allotted at government rates to bring succor to the masses.
Hitting out at the BJP, the ruling MVA constituents termed the protests as "treason" and "anti-Prime Minister Narendra Modi", and an effort to save the BJP more than the state in this hour of crisis gripping Maharashtra.
"This protest is ‘anti-Modi' since the state government is working as per the directions and advice of the Centre. They (state BJP) would have got some public sympathy if they had come out and protested when the government shifted the International Financial Service Centre (IFSC) headquarters to Gujarat," slammed Shiv Sena MP Sanjay Raut.
Tourism Minister Aditya Thackeray said: "Absolutely shameful, what lust for power politics can make leaders do. Making kids stand in the heat, with their masks lowered, not covering the face for a political protest when we need to keep them safe and indoors."
Without naming the BJP, Thackeray Jr added: "One political party state unit has set a new low and a new world record - the only party in the world to indulge in politics and in spreading fear, hate and division when the world has forgotten all of it to help each other. This party has forgotten the pandemic."
Nationalist Congress Party leaders used a hashtag #MaharashtradrohiBJP to lampoon Fadnavis and the agitation accusing them of indulging in politics when the state is in the throes of a major health crisis.
"Think once before holding black (placards) in hand, whether you are insulting doctors, policemen and health workers who are working round-the-clock for Maharashtra! Whether you are committing treason with Maharashtra," said State NCP President and Water Resources Minister Jayant Patil.
State Congress President and Revenue Minister Balasaheb Thorat dismissed it as "a farcical protest which was an attempt to save the BJP rather than Maharashtra".
"Look at the MVA leaders and workers who are working day and night, BJP is not seen anywhere and to show its presence, it has launched this agitation. Instead of running to Raj Bhavan frequently, they should be rushing forward to help the people," he said.
Thorat said the MVA and people would have greatly appreciated if Fadnavis had secured an economic package from the Centre for Maharashtra, but they are not ready to listen as their commitment lies with the BJP central leaders.
Other senior leaders like NCP Housing Minister Jitendra Awhad, Congress state spokesperson Sachin Sawant and Sena spokesperson Manisha Kayande slammed the BJP for indulging in politics instead of cooperating with the state government which is immersed in fighting the Covid-19 pandemic.
The NCP posted below the ‘MaharashtradrohiBJP' hashtag how the Maharashtra unit leaders, MPs and MLAs donated to PM-CARES Fund instead of CM Relief Fund, advocated for PM when the IFSC was shifted to Gujarat and tried to politicise the Palghar lynching incident but refrained when they learnt that some of those arrested were BJP leaders.