The health scheme of the West Bengal government - one of the flashpoints of the coming state elections - had a VIP participant today. Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee, who had ditched the Central government's Ayushman Bharat in favour of the state scheme, visited the local booth of the Duare Duare Sarkar (Government At Your Doorstep) near her Harish Chatterjee Road residence and collected her Swasthya Sathi card.
The health scheme is one of the huge areas of conflict between the Centre and the state, which the BJP -- challenger to the ruling Trinamool Congress in the coming elections -- is playing up.
This morning, around 11.30 AM, Ms Banerjee was seen queueing up with locals to personally collect her card for the cashless scheme that offers free treatment at private and government hospitals, and a health insurance of Rs 5 lakh per family.
Asked if she felt safe after collecting her card, Ms Banerjee told NDTV that she doesn't use government funds for any personal needs. "I don't even take Re 1 as salary. But this card is for everyone, and if everyone is taking this card then I am proud to say I am a commoner, and I am happy about that. I will preserve it," she said.
Ms Banerjee, who is also the state health minister, has urged other ministers to join the Swasthya Sathi scheme in a show of solidarity. "I will keep this card in my archive," she had said earlier.
BJP state chief Dilip Ghosh has mocked Ms Banerjee .
"She does drama everywhere. She likes doing drama. Is she eligible for Swasthya Sathi, the chief minister? During demonetization, we saw Rahul Gandhi queue up to withdraw money. He is involved in a Rs 50 crore scam and he queued up for Rs 10,000 from his bank? Don't they realize people understand it is all drama? This drama won't work in Bengal anymore," he said.
Bengal is one of the four opposition-ruled states, including Delhi, Telangana and Odisha, that had not adopted the Pradhan Mantri Jan Arogya Yogana, or Ayushman Bharat. The BJP contends that the Chief Minister has deprived the state's people of a host of health benefits offered by the Centre.
Ms Banerjee has responded with a list on how the state scheme was better than Ayushman Bharat, which is partly funded by the state.
On December 26, MP Derek O'Brien had also tweeted a comparison of the two health schemes. Both assure Rs 5 lakh in health insurance but while Swasthya Sathi was recently expanded to cover 100 per cent of population in Bengal, Ayushman Bharat, Mr O'Brien claims, covers only 40 per cent of India's population.
Do you know @narendramodi ji, Swasthya Sathi is not at all linked to the Modi govt. You give free health to a few. Bengal provides free healthcare to all 10 crore people in the state. When you are not busy running down Bengal, here's a revealing chart you might want to look at???? pic.twitter.com/E6q0KEZMW6— Derek O'Brien | ডেরেক ও'ব্রায়েন (@derekobrienmp) December 26, 2020
Since December 1, crores of people have line up to enroll for the Swasthya Sathi card, issued to the woman of the family.
The Trinamool Congress is hoping that faster enrolment and smooth rollout of benefits through the doorstep campaign - launched ahead of the elections - would help the party stay in power for a third straight term.
State elections are due in April-May in Bengal, where the Trinamool Congress faces tough competition from the BJP.