Maha: Investigate PM CARES Fund, says Uddhav amid ED action in jumbo COVID facility ‘scam’; calls BJP ‘nalayak’

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Mumbai: Shiv Sena (UBT) chief Uddhav Thackeray on Saturday hit back at Enforcement Directorate action against some persons close to his party in an alleged jumbo COVID facility scam by seeking a probe into the PM CARES Fund.

He also sought probe into the functioning of civic bodies of Nagpur, Pimpri-Chinchwad and Pune, as well as governments in Uttar Pradesh and Gujarat, all of which were or are led by the Bharatiya Janata Party, and Thane, which was controlled by the Eknath Shinde-led Shiv Sena.

The terms of these civic bodies ended in early 2022 but polls were not held due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Addressing party workers, Thackeray dared the government to probe the working of the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation during the pandemic, adding that the Epidemic Act and the Disaster Management Act were in place as the dire situation demanded that one go beyond rules to save the lives of citizens.

The BMC was controlled by the undivided Shiv Sena till its term ended in February last year.

“We are not scared of any probe. And when you (government) want to probe, then you also probe Thane municipal corporation, Pimpri-Chinchwad, Pune and Nagpur civic bodies,” he said.

“Probe the PM CARES Fund as well. The PM CARES Fund does not come under the ambit of any investigation. Lakhs and crores of rupees were collected. Many ventilators were malfunctioning. We will also carry out a probe,” the former chief minister said.

The Prime Minister’s Citizen Assistance and Relief in Emergency Situations Fund was set up in 2020 as a public charitable trust with the aim of having a dedicated national fund to deal with distress related primarily to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Prime Minister is the chairperson and members include Defence Minister, Home Minister and Finance Minister.

Thackeray said he had topped the list of ‘best performing chief minister’ surveys amid the pandemic and this had led to the BJP having “stomach ache” since none of its leaders could find a place in these rankings.

Thackeray was chief minister from late 2019 till June 2022, while the pandemic set in across the country by March 2020.

“You (BJP-led dispensation) are making a villain of Uddhav Thackeray. People will decide whether he is a hero or a villain. But you are ‘nalayak’ (worthless), Thackeray claimed.

The world had praised the “Mumbai model” for the metropolis’ fight against the pandemic, while opponents, an apparent reference to the BJP, were defaming it, he alleged.

Mumbai was being looted and the allegations of a COVID scam have surfaced because the Shiv Sena (UBT) was exposing irregularities, he said.

The Eknath Shinde government had set up a Special Investigation Team under the Mumbai police commissioner to probe alleged irregularities worth Rs 12,000 crore that were flagged in a report of the Comptroller and Auditor General.

Incidentally, Thackeray’s son and former state minister Aaditya Thackeray will lead a protest on July 1 against alleged corruption in the BMC.

The former chief minister said Maharashtra was the only state to build a field care hospital to tackle the coronavirus pandemic.

“What happened in Gujarat and Uttar Pradesh?” he asked. Both states are ruled by the BJP and routinely hit the headlines during the pandemic for steep rise in cases, and news of bodies of victims allegedly being dumped in the Ganga.

Thackeray said Prime Minister Narendra Modi had appointed a committee of officers and they were allowed to buy equipment beyond the General Framework Agreement during the pandemic.

Dismissing the charges of corruption, Thackeray instead dubbed the BJP as cruel for toppling the Kamal Nath-led Congress government in Madhya Pradesh as the pandemic started to set in.

The Nath government fell in March 2020 after MLAs loyal to Jyotiraditya Scindia walked out, paving the way for a BJP government there under Shivraj Singh Chouhan.

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