In the last one week, three BJP leaders from Bengaluru, including Deputy Chief Minister C.N. Ashwath Narayan, have drawn the ire of citizens and the Opposition over allegations of “undue preference” and “diversion” of COVID-19 vaccines for certain sections of society including party workers and caste-based groups.
One vaccination drive that came under criticism was held in Malleswaram by Mr. Narayan who is the MLA of the constituency. Photos of priests, who are not on the list of priority groups, being given shots elicited allegations of “caste based vaccine camps” by Congress leader B. K. Hariprasad and Twitterati alike.
The Opposition Congress is running a “BJP vaccine scam” campaign on Twitter even as it launched a scathing attack on the Union government’s vaccine policy on Wednesday.
On the drive held by the Deputy CM, Mr. Hariprasad alleged that Dalits and other people who came to get vaccinated at the camp on Monday were sent back. However, the Minister’s office denied these allegations. The camp was for senior citizens and a group of Brahmin priests had turned up, they claimed, arguing that the photo was used out of context.
Meanwhile, another MLA S. Raghu is accused of diverting vaccines from a primary health centre (PHC) to a kalyana mantapa that he owns and administering them to BJP party workers and their family members, on Tuesday. Nearly 300 persons who had booked slots to get the jab at the CV Raman Nagar PHC had to return disappointed and even they held a protest. Mr. Raghu also denied allegations and cried “political conspiracy” to defame him. He said the vaccination centre was shifted out of the PHC as per government guidelines.
Last week, another MLA, Ravi Subramanya, was accused of “vaccine trade” when a private hospital employee claimed in a viral audio that the hospital paid ₹700 to the MLA, who was defending the steep cost of the vaccine ₹900. He also denied all allegations.
These allegations against BJP MLAs come weeks after the BJP MP, Tejasvi Surya, and three MLAs dramatically livestreamed an expose of an alleged “bed blocking” scam in the BBMP.
Two of the three MLAs have faced allegations of “diversion” of resources since then. MLA Satish Reddy’s associate was arrested in the bed blocking scam he claimed to expose, and Mr. Subramanya faced allegations of “vaccine trade”.
While, vaccines are available in certain private hospitals for those in the 18-44 age group, slots on the CoWIN portal are hard to come by. The State government is vaccinating only those among 20 priority groups in that age bracket, creating a situation where people are pulling strings to jump the queue and get the shot.
In the absence of elected councillors, MLAs are spearheading vaccination drives in their respective constituencies in the city, leading to several allegations of “preferential treatment.”