Special Correspondent :
FACTIONAL politics within the Maha Vikas Aghadi (MVA) Government in the State came to fore on Thursday when Disaster Management Minister Vijay Wadettiwar announced a total unlock-down in as many as 18 districts. However, this decision which was withdrawn by the office of Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray, stating that a fully-considered decision in this regard would be taken later. Relaxation of restrictions as per the situation in different areas is only under consideration and no decision has been taken, a statement from the Chief Minister’s Office (CMO) said. Political observers described the episode as one of intra-government one-upmanship among its coalition partners. Vijay Wadettiwar, who belongs to the Congress party, appeared in an obvious hurry to grab headlines and made the announcement during the day. Irked by that haste, the Chief Minister’s Office hastened to withdraw the Minister’s statement, thus highlighting once again the internal rivalry that is bogging down the State Government.
Observers also contend that in the past some weeks, the Congress party is increasingly being pushed to the sidelines by the other two MVA partners, namely the Shiv Sena (SS) and the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP). As a result, Ministers belonging to Congress have been asked to step up efforts to capture popular attention. Wadettiwar’s statement appeared to be part of that toolkit, sources indicate. Confronted with embarrassment to eat his own words, Wadettiwar later said sheepishly that, in effect, only ‘in-principle’ approval to phasing out of restrictions has been given, but no specific and well-defined decision has been taken so far in this regard. Wadettiwar failed to find right words to defend his hasty statement. Earlier, Wadettiwar had told reporters in the afternoon after attending a meeting of the State Disaster Management Authority here that restrictions would be lifted in 18 out of 36 districts in the State where the coronavirus positivity rate was five per cent or less and the occupancy of oxygen beds in hospitals was less than 25 per cent from Friday. This announcement caused much sensation as such a decision has not been taken anywhere else where positivity has plunged to sub-five-percent levels.
Stepping in quickly, the CMO announced the CMO said that the Government had not lifted lockdown-like curbs as COVID-19 had not been controlled completely yet. “The coronavirus spread is serious in some rural areas....The curbs have not been completely lifted in the State,” the statement added. Last week the Government had announced that the restrictions, imposed in April this year, would continue till June 15. The CMO statement said that the Disaster Management Department has decided five levels of severity of the pandemic based on the positivity rate and availability of oxygen beds. The degree of relaxation will be decided as per the level of severity and guidelines on whether to relax the curbs or further strengthen them will be announced soon, the CMO said.