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BJP ‘fake news’ irks Mamata

'At the very beginning, I ask them, please have mercy, do not do this'
Mamata at Nabanna.

Meghdeep Bhattacharyya   |   Calcutta   |   Published 06.04.20, 09:35 PM

Mamata Banerjee on Monday rebutted alleged “fake news” overdrive by the BJP’s IT cell regarding Bengal’s handling of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Hours after the BJP’s IT cell chief, Amit Malviya, took to Twitter with a slew of tweets accusing the Bengal chief minister of exerting pressure on hospitals against reporting Covid-19 deaths, Mamata had lashed out at the saffron camp.

“This is not the time to crack jokes. Nor is this the time for politics. If I do it, it is wrong. If somebody else does it, that is wrong. This is the time for giving people sheba (service)…. I have been noticing, some party’s political IT cell spewing out numerous kinds of fake news and misusing even Swasthya Bhavan (the state health department headquarters) bulletins,” Mamata said at a news conference at Nabanna.

“Even at this time, instead of helping people, they are already taking to the streets, with knashor-ghonta (traditional metallic percussion instruments)… how to mislead the people, make them misunderstand and spread malicious propaganda,” she said.

“At the very beginning, I ask them, please have mercy, do not do this.”

In the morning, Malviya — known for his proximity to Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Union home minister Amit Shah — issued the statements. “Hospital administrations across Bengal are under pressure from Mamata Banerjee, who is also the Health Minister, to underplay Covid related cases by discouraging tests and thwarting doctors from writing Corona as a reason for deaths, despite +ive reports, in Death Certificates,” he wrote in one tweet.

“What is Mamata Banerjee hiding? No medical bulletin from the Bengal government on 2nd, 3rd and 5th Apr. Curiously number of Covid related deaths missing in the bulletin released on 4th...,” Malviya said in another tweet.

The Trinamul sources said Mamata had been going out of her way to dispel fears and apprehensions of the people anyway, now such propaganda from the saffron camp prompted her to fight back.

“Did Rajiva Sinha (chief secretary) conduct a news conference on Saturday or not? We have made it a rule. Bulletins will come later — at 8pm from Swasthya Bhavan daily — but a news conference will be held first, on days I am here, I will. When I am not here, the chief secretary… is the chief secretary not important enough, to address the media on behalf of the state government?” she asked.

“Even this is being used by some for games of mud-slinging,” she added.

The Trinamul chief went on to warn the BJP against such practices and reminded the saffron camp that she, too, could play the game of politicising the pandemic.

“There is an adage — one cannot clap single-handedly…. If I release another set of data for the Centre’s released data? Will that be the right thing to do? Have we ever challenged the Centre’s data (on the pandemic)? We haven’t, because this is not the time for these things,” the chief minister said.

“We have not been getting anything from the Centre, but whenever the Prime Minister sought a videoconference with me, I was present,” she said, adding that she would send a party MP to meet Modi on April 8, because such a request was made, for “greater interest”.

Questioning the motive behind the Centre sending 3,000 personal protective equipment kits — the state had asked for 5 lakh kits — “unusually coloured a certain shade of yellow”, Mamata still insisted that she was not looking for a fight.

“I am not going to quarrel with any political party…. What we are discussing is for the betterment of the future. Let us not decide our political fate now. Because it suits me, and it suits somebody else. I will appeal to all politicians, don’t do politics now. This is not the time,” she said.

Responding to a question raised regarding the audit body of experts to probe deaths of Covid-19 patients before adding to the pandemic death toll – the BJP has asked why this was done only in Bengal – the chief minister said the state wants experts handling it.

“We don’t want fake news to create panic. I am not expert, nor are our officials, so doctors are deciding,” she said.

“Why don’t you trust the doctors? Don’t trust your political leaders,” she added.


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