Congress leader Shashi Tharoor on Sunday criticised Union Health Minister Harsh Vardhan, saying that he was stuck an “alternative reality” amid the massive surge in coronavirus cases in India.

Tharoor was responding to statistics provided by Vardhan at a meeting of the Group of Ministers on Saturday to discuss the coronavirus crisis, according to PTI. Vardhan had said that 180 districts in the country had not reported any new infection for a week, while 18 had seen no new cases in 14 days, ANI reported.

“It’s sad to see Health Minister Harsh Vardhan occupy an alternative reality while the nation gasps for breath and the world sees Indians suffering,” the Congress leader tweeted.

Tharoor also criticised the health minister for a tweet last month about Co-WIN, the government’s vaccination platform. Vardhan had said in the tweet that 1.45 crore messages were successfully delivered within three hours of the opening of registration for the third phase of inoculation.

The Congress leader also shared a screenshot of a report about the Indian Medical Association demanding an explanation from Vardhan for promoting Patanjali Ayurved’s product Coronil in February. The company, founded by yoga guru Ramdev, had claimed that the pill was the “first evidence-based medicine” for coronavirus.

“Can one imagine Dr [Anthony] Fauci [the United States’ top infectious diseases expert] celebrating SMSs, promoting faux medicines and endorsing unproven therapies?” Tharoor said. “No one believes our figures.”

India is battling a ferocious second wave of the coronavirus. Hospitals in several cities, including Delhi, are struggling with acute shortages of oxygen, drugs and medical equipment.

The Opposition has repeatedly criticised the Centre for the way it is handling the second wave of the coronavirus.

Congress President Sonia Gandhi, during a meeting of the party’s MPs on Friday, had said that India was crippled by “a political leadership that has no empathy for the people”. “The government has failed the people of our country,” she said.

Gandhi added that letters from her, former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Rahul Gandhi to Prime Minister Narendra Modi had “fallen on deaf ears”.

The Centre has also been widely criticised for opening up vaccination for all adults, without a proper supply schedule from manufacturers. Several states had to therefore delay the third phase of vaccination as enough supplies were not available to handle the burden of inoculating nearly 60 crore citizens in the 18-44 age group who became eligible to receive the jab from May 1.

India registered 3,66,161 new coronavirus cases on Monday morning, taking the tally of infections in the country to 2,26,62,575 since the pandemic broke out in January last year. With 3,754 deaths, the toll climbed to 2,46,116. There are 37,45,237 active cases and 1,86,71,222 patients have recovered from the infection so far.

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