Senior Congress leader Kapil Sibal on Friday said Prime Minister Narendra Modi has "without doubt" lost the moral authority to rule for not standing with people in need of medical aid during the second wave of COVID-19 and for doing playing political one-upmanship in polls instead.
In an interview with PTI, the former union minister launched a hard-hitting attack on the prime minister saying the lack of a credible political alternative did not mean that he should stop discharging his duties believing that his political fortunes are secure.
Mr Sibal also attacked the government for what he called its ineptness to strategise the COVID-19 vaccination, saying it borders on criminal negligence and its priorities in tackling the pandemic are "misplaced and faulty and lack sincerity".
He also said that the toolkit issue is nothing but an attempt to "deploy forgery" to divert public attention from his government's failures.
"A prime minister who should have stood with the people while they were languishing outside hospitals in need of medical aid during the pandemic, was busy playing political one-upmanship during Assembly elections in West Bengal, Assam etc, has, without doubt, lost the moral authority to rule.
"There may or may not be a credible alternative but does it mean that he should stop discharging his responsibilities believing that his political fortunes are secure," Mr Sibal told PTI while blaming the prime minister for inaction in saving precious lives during the second wave of the pandemic.
Mr Sibal said he agreed that at present "there is definitely a void in terms of a strong political alternative" and that is why he has suggested reforms in his own party so that the country has strong and credible opposition.
The senior Congress leader, who was one of the 23 leaders who had written to Sonia Gandhi suggesting the party's overhaul, said when the whole world was doing its best to tide over the pandemic and save precious human lives, our Prime Minister was busy addressing election rallies in West Bengal, Assam, Tamil Nadu and Kerala.
The COVID-19 protocols that the government under him had itself put in place were openly flouted, he alleged, saying, "I believe that is what defamed India".
He said it is so convenient for this government to pin blame on others for its "monumental failures" rather than to introspect and do the course correction in order to provide succour to those affected.
"The toolkit issue is nothing but an attempt to deploy forgery to divert public attention from the Modi government's failures in managing the coronavirus pandemic," he said referring to the issue that has been marked as ''manipulative media'' by Twitter leading to a tiff with the government.
Mr Sibal also alleged multiple flip-flops in the government's vaccine policy and said India was hugely embarrassed within a short span of time from a vaccine supplier to a country that was gasping for oxygen.
He also blamed the government for doing nothing to ramp up medical infrastructure between the first and the second wave that cost the country heavily and many precious lives were lost for want of medical aid including oxygen, ICU beds and medicines.
The Congress leader also accused the government of doing nothing to ramp up vaccine production and said it was shocking that the first order for procurement of vaccine from foreign manufacturers was placed as late as January 2021.
"Our ineptness to strategise the COVID-19 vaccination drive borders on criminal negligence. Globally, mass immunization is key to managing the pandemic. The two pillars of immunising a large population quickly and efficiently are procurement and delivery. In India, we have struggled on both fronts," he said.
Mr Sibal alleged that the people of this country know that the priorities of this government in tackling the COVID-19 pandemic were "misplaced, faulty and lacked sincerity and that it was completely clueless and unprepared to deal with the enormity of the challenge despite expert advice and warning".
He also accused the government of cleverly shifting the burden of procurement to state governments, after having failed to timely procure vaccines and said both the decentralised model for vaccination and the new liberalized pricing model were "deeply flawed".
"Public anger resulting from vaccine shortage was deflected by the government by blaming state governments," he said, adding the reality was that the states only wanted flexibility in vaccine distribution and not in vaccine procurement.
"People dying for as basic a medical aid as oxygen was a bigger embarrassment and that actually defamed the country," the former union minister said.
He said since the National Disaster Management Act, 2005 was in force, the Union Government is solely charged with the responsibility to deal with such disasters and it cannot wash its hands off by putting forward the oft-repeated rant of health being a state subject.