Congress leader Rahul Gandhi on Wednesday took a dig at the Narendra Modi government after it decided to fast-track approvals for foreign-produced vaccines that have been cleared in other countries.

“First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win,” Gandhi tweeted.

On April 8, Gandhi had written to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, urging him to fast-track the approval of coronavirus vaccines amid a surge in daily cases.

“India had first mover advantage in vaccination and yet we are moving at a snail’s pace,” Gandhi said. “Historically, India has achieved abundant experience in designing and executing some of the world’s biggest vaccination programmes. Yet in the present case, we have managed to fully vaccinate less than 1% of the population in 3 months.”

However, Bharatiya Janata Party leaders criticised the Congress leader for his suggestion. Union Minister of Law and Justice Ravi Shankar Prasad said that Gandhi was lobbying for pharmaceutical companies by asking for “arbitrary approvals” for foreign vaccines. “After failing as a part-time politician, has Rahul Gandhi switched to full time lobbying?” Prasad asked.

Union Minister of Textiles Smriti Irani called Gandhi a “part-time politician, full-time lobbyist”.

On Monday, Congress chief Sonia Gandhi had also urged the prime minister clear more coronavirus vaccines for emergency use in India and boost domestic production.

The National Expert Group on Vaccine Administration for Covid-19 had discussed the matter for emergency approval on April 11. The group had recommended that vaccines developed in foreign countries and those which have been granted emergency approval for restricted use by the United States Food and Drug Administration, European Medicines Agency, United Kingdom’s Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency and Pharmaceuticals and Medical Devices Agency may be allowed for use in India.

At a press conference on Tuesday, VK Paul, a NITI Aayog member and chairperson of the National Expert Committee on Vaccine Administration, invited international vaccine manufacturers Pfizer, Moderna and Johnson & Johnson to come to India as early as possible.

The government said the first 100 beneficiaries of the approved foreign vaccines shall be assessed for seven days for safety outcomes before it is rolled out for further immunisation drive within the country.

The Centre’s decision came during an alarming rise in Covid-19 cases and a vaccine shortage in several states in India. So far, at least 10 states – Kerala, Rajasthan, Andhra Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Haryana, Maharashtra, Odisha, Telangana, Punjab and Delhi – have reported vaccine shortages.

India on Wednesday reported 1,84,372 new Covid-19 infections – the highest single-day rise in cases since the pandemic broke out in January 2020. The overall case count rose to 1,38,73,825. With 1,027 more deaths in 24 hours, the toll went up to 1,72,085. Active Covid-19 cases stood at 13,65,704, while 1,23,36,036 people have recovered from the disease.

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