As opposition parties ascribed the government's vaccine policy change to the Supreme Court's sharp comments last week, Congress leader P Chidambaram today withdrew his remarks criticizing Prime Minister Narendra Modi's statement on the Centre earlier allowing states to buy vaccines because states had demanded it.
"The underlying message was that the central government learned from its mistakes. They made two cardinal mistakes and made effort to correct those mistakes, but as usual bluff and bluster, the Prime Minister blames the Opposition for the mistakes he committed," Mr Chidambaram was quoted as telling news agency ANI.
"Nobody, but nobody said that Centre shouldn't procure vaccines. He (PM) now blames state governments saying - they wanted to procure vaccines so we allowed them. Let us know which CM, which state government, on what date demanded that he should be allowed to procure vaccines," he asserted.
Soon after the remarks, as a letter from Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee emerged on social media, the former Union Minister put out a public take-back.
"I told ANI 'please tell us which state government demanded that it should be allowed to directly procure vaccines' Social media activists have posted the copy of the letter of CM, West Bengal to PM making such a request. I was wrong. I stand corrected," Mr Chidambaram tweeted.
I told ANI 'please tell us which state government demanded that it should be allowed to directly procure vaccines'— P. Chidambaram (@PChidambaram_IN) June 7, 2021
Social media activists have posted the copy of the letter of CM, West Bengal to PM making such a request.
I was wrong. I stand corrected.
On Monday, PM Modi announced in his national address that the Centre would provide vaccines free of charge to all above 18 from June 21 and would take back control of vaccination from states, reversing a policy that took effect on May 1. He also said the vaccine drive was decentralized because states had complained. "Many states demanded vaccinations to be decentralized," he said.
In the February 24 letter that caused Mr Chidambaram to retract his statement, Mamata Banerjee had said Bengal should be allowed to source vaccines on its own.
"We would request you to kindly take up the matter with appropriate authority so that State government is able to purchase the vaccines from designated point(s) on top priority basis because the West Bengal government wants to provide vaccination free of cost to all the people," the Chief Minister had written.
Yesterday, however, Ms Banerjee made no reference to this in her tweets responding to the Prime Minister's address.
Back in Feb '21 & multiple times thereafter, I'd written to the PM stating our long standing demand to provide vaccines to ALL for FREE.— Mamata Banerjee (@MamataOfficial) June 7, 2021
Took him 4 months but after much pressure, he has FINALLY listened to us & implemented what we've been asking all this while. (1/2)
"Back in Feb '21 and multiple times thereafter, I'd written to the PM stating our long-standing demand to provide vaccines to ALL for FREE. Took him four months but after much pressure, he has FINALLY listened to us and implemented what we've been asking all this while," wrote the Bengal Chief Minister.