Remdesivir -- a crucial drug for COVID-19 patients which is currently in short supply -- has become the political flashpoint between the Maharashtra government and the opposition BJP.
Yesterday, the Mumbai Police detained Brucke Pharma owner Rajesh Dokaniya, saying a truckload of Remdesivir was caught. Mr Dokaniya, the police said, was trying to export 60,000 vials despite an export ban.
But late in the evening, the BJP leader and former chief minister Devendra Fadnavis and Pravin Darekar went to the police station and asserted that Union Minister Mansukh Mandaviya had asked him to supply the maximum Remdesivir to Maharashtra. Mr Dokaniya, they said, took all permissions from Maharashtra and the Daman administration and accused the state's ruling Maharashtra Vikas Aghadi of playing "cheap politics".
"Pravin Darekar had gone to Daman four days ago and requested Brucke Pharma to give production to Maharashtra. They said we need permission as we just have export licence," Mr Fadnavis said.
"I personally requested Mansukh Mandaviya-ji and he got the permission under Dr Reddy's to produce," he added.
This morning, Shiv Sena's Priyanka Chaturvedi tweeted: "If this isn't backstabbing the people of Maharashtra for his cheap politics then what is? A leader of opposition is hoarding an emergency drug procured secretly & when seized fights with Mumbai Police. Shame Mr Fadnavis. Your midnight shenanigans were exposed once and now again."
If this isn't backstabbing the people of Maharashtra for his cheap politics then what is?— Priyanka Chaturvedi (@priyankac19) April 18, 2021
A leader of opposition is hoarding an emergency drug procured secretly&when seized fights with Mumbai Police.
Shame Mr Fadnavis.
Your midnight shenanigans were exposed once and now again. https://t.co/w8qynzA3DP
"We are trying to restrict hoarding of Remdesivir. It is for all of us to step up beyond politics at this point," Maharashtra Minister Aaditya Thackeray told NDTV.
Activist Saket Gokhale had raised questions over how Mr Fadnavis or the BJP, as private players, could get the crucial drug when sale is allowed only to the government.
In a series of tweets, he asked how "in the midst of a severe shortage why was BJP hoarding 4.75 crores worth of Remdesivir in their party office (just like in Gujarat)".
"And most importantly - while @nawabmalikncp ji showed yesterday that Central govt had stopped supplies of Remdesivir to Maharashtra govt, then how was BJP's Fadnavis allowed to procure it sneakily without informing the state govt? That too stock worth 4.75 crores?" another tweet read.
On Saturday, Maharashtra cabinet minister Nawab Malik accused the centre of not giving permission to units producing Remdesivir to sell it to Maharashtra.
He said it is "sad and shocking" that when the government of Maharashtra asked the 16 export companies for Remdesivir, "We were told that Central Government has asked them not to supply the medicine to Maharashtra. These companies were warned, if they did, their license will be cancelled".
BJP union ministers Harsh Vardhan and Piyush Goyal have already slammed Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray after he said he dialled Prime Minister Narendra Modi over oxygen shortage in the state. Sources said the response he got was that the Prime Minister was busy in election campaign in West Bengal.
Mr Goyal, in a series of tweets, accused the Maharashtra government of gimmicks and said the Centre is continuously in touch with the states and Maharashtra has received the highest quantity of oxygen.
Saddened to see @OfficeOfUT's gimmicks on oxygen. GoI, with all stakeholders, is ensuring maximum oxygen production in India. We are currently producing 110% of Oxygen generating capacity and diverting all available Oxygen from industrial use to medical use.— Piyush Goyal (@PiyushGoyal) April 17, 2021
Another leader, Mansukh Mandaviya, said the Centre is doubling the production of Remdesivir and supplying it to Maharashtra is the priority.
Finally in the evening, Union health minister Harshvardhan said he has assured Mr Thackeray of uninterrupted oxygen and medicine supply. Even ventilators are being supplied to the state, he added.