Bengaluru: An allegation that began with the “bribe-for-bed” scam has spiralled into an all-out political slugfest in Karnataka, with serious charges levelled by the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and the opposition Congress party in the state against each other.
The political battle in Karnataka over the management, or lack of it, during the raging Covid-19 pandemic among other issues, has now become a focal point of all discourse in the southern state that continues to remain firmly in the grip of the pandemic.
The latest in the series of allegations and its counters is that a BJP MLA has been taking a commission from a private hospital for vaccinations.
Ravi Subramanya, the BJP’s three-time legislator from Basavanagudi in Bengaluru south, said that a hospital that gets the vaccine from the company or another source by paying the price of it includes handling charges and other costs. He asks how a private hospital that charges ₹850 to ₹900 per dose gives a commission of ₹700.
“It is a political game. Such things normally happen during elections. But this has begun much earlier,” Subramanya told Hindustan Times.
“For a few days, they targeted Tejaswi Surya then they went for Satish Reddy (BJP MLA from Bommanahalli), and then they came for me. I don’t know who is next,” he added.
Surya, Reddy, Subramanya, and one more BJP legislator had barged into the Bengaluru south war room and levelled allegations against a few persons for blocking beds illegally and then selling them for astronomical prices.
However, the incident took a communal twist as all 17 persons named out a list of 205 persons working in the war room, were muslims, and Subramanya was heard questioning officials “if it was a Madarasa”.
Surya continues to be part of several paid-vaccination drives with private hospitals while a person, alleged to be a close aide of the legislator, has been arrested over the bribe-for-bed scam.
The allegations have further dented the image of the Yediyurappa-led state government which is already struggling not only to control the raging pandemic but also finds itself amid a possible power struggle between the party and the chief minister over the possible ouster of the latter.
“There was no effort to look into the allegations and set the processes right. Instead, it became an effort to target those who made the allegations,” said a BJP legislator, requesting anonymity, hinting that the three legislators were being targeted by the Yediyurappa-led government itself.
The inadequate financial package of ₹1250 crore, an almost non-existent cabinet, and infighting within the government has also weighed on the performance of BJP-ruled Karnataka.
For Congress, the allegations have replenished their growing arsenal to take on the ruling BJP which appears to be on the defensive over the developments.
The Congress in Karnataka listed the scams which include bed hire, PM cares, purchase of medical equipment, food kit, and vaccine blocking among others.
“Death figures in Karnataka continue to cry loud of BJP’s inefficiency in taking care of our people with 492 lives lost to Covid yesterday. #BJPVaccineScam is the reason the Govt refuses to budge to #LetCongressVaccinate. They want to make a profit out of people’s misery,” DK Shivakumar, the president of the Congress party in Karnataka said in a post on Twitter.
He added that the vaccination drive in Karnataka was “95% failure” and only 5% of the eligible persons were fully vaccinated, saying that the people of the state deserve better.
“Vaccines are available in private hospitals & hotels if you pay @BJP4Karnataka MLAs or MPs, but not in Govt hospitals which cater to the poor & lower income groups. #ModiMadeDisaster,” Priyank Kharge, former minister and Congress legislator from Kalaburagi district said.