Parliamentary affairs minister and Bharatiya Janata Party leader Pralhad Joshi on Tuesday alleged that Congress president Sonia Gandhi and her son and Wayanad MP Rahul Gandhi haven’t got themselves inoculated against Covid-19 because they distrust Indian vaccines.
The minister told news agency ANI, “When we started vaccination in January, Congress leaders raised questions on vaccine efficacy. Now, they’re taking the vaccine. As per my knowledge, Sonia and Rahul Gandhi haven’t taken the vaccine. They don’t have confidence in Indian vaccine.”
Joshi’s reference is to the unprecedented approval given to Bharat Biotech’s Covaxin, in the absence of any data from Phase 3 trials. Subsequent interim data did show the vaccine to be highly effective. The company is yet to publish final data.
Responding to Joshi, the Congress spokesperson steered clear of commenting on whether the Gandhis had taken the shot.
Party spokesperson Randeep Singh Surjewala instead accused the BJP ministers of “resorting to diabolical propaganda to divert attention from abject failure of the Modi government to ensure universal free vaccination”.
Later, Surjewala spoke with Hindustan Times and said the Prime Minister and his government have endangered the lives of millions of Indians by changing the vaccination policy three times in six months.
Joshi’s allegation comes a day after Prime Minister Narendra Modi , in an address to the nation, announced that the Union government was taking over the responsibility for procuring vaccines and would then distribute them free of cost to states, in response to a rising chorus from the states, sharp criticism by the Supreme Court, and amid increasing concerns that supply shortages and the insistence of foreign vaccine makers that they would only deal with the Union government.
Last week, Congress launched a campaign for free universal vaccination. As part of it, Rahul Gandhi tweeted a video with the hashtag #SpeakUpForFreeUniversalVaccination, asking people to upload videos demanding free vaccination for all.
But unlike other Indian politicians, the Gandhis haven’t made their vaccination status public. A Congress leader, who spoke on condition of anonymity, explained that the family felt this was a private matter. In April, Rahul Gandhi tested positive for Covid-19, which had kept him out of the Congress Working Committee meeting on May 10. In the event he had not been vaccinated by then, he will have to wait till mid-July to take a shot.