Congress leader Rahul Gandhi on Friday alleged that the Bharatiya Janata Party-led central government and Prime Minister Narendra Modi had not understood the severity of the Covid-19 crisis.

“It is not a common disease, it keeps on mutating,” the Congress leader said during a virtual press conference. “The more time you give it, the more dangerous it gets.” Gandhi said that no one understood the first wave of the pandemic “but the second wave is the prime minister’s responsibility”.

“It is a result of his theatrics and the lack of his responsibility,” Gandhi added, according to PTI. “It is time for the prime minister to be a leader and display leadership skills and show courage and not come out with excuses and blame others.”

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“You have left the door open and have still not shut the door,” Gandhi said, according to NDTV. “You have vaccinated only 3% of the population, leaving the rest open. US has vaccinated half its population. Brazil has vaccinated 8% to 9%. They are not the vaccine capital, we are. We make vaccines.”

“My understanding and the understanding of experts is the current rate of vaccination of 3% almost guarantees a third wave of virus when the lockdown goes, which is completely unnecessary,” he added, according to PTI.

Warning that the entire country would only be vaccinated by 2024 at the current pace, he said India can avoid the third, fourth and fifth waves of Covid if 50% to 60% of the population was vaccinated.

The problem is that there is no strategy, Gandhi said. “The prime minister doesn’t think strategically, he is an event manager,” the Congress leader said. “He thinks one event at a time. You don’t need events now as events will kill people, you need a strategy. The aim of the strategy should be to shut the space for corona.”

Gandhi also alleged that the government’s death rate is “a lie”. He claimed that the government was trying to suppress information by lying about the number of deaths.

Gandhi added that only vaccinations were a permanent solution to the coronavirus disease. Lockdowns, physical distancing and masks can only control the rising number of infections and provide temporary solutions, he said.

Gandhi also urged Modi to form a panel that will meet every day to interact with experts and come up with strategies to tackle the pandemic, the Hindustan Times reported. “The RSS [Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh]-BJP [Bharatiya Janata Party] do not allow the PM [Prime Minister] to get any information,” Gandhi said. “He should form a panel that would meet daily and talk to experts to make the strategy.”

The Congress leader also dismissed the BJP’s allegation against his party on a “toolkit” being propagated to tarnish the central government’s reputation amid the Covid-19 crisis. Gandhi said the claims of the BJP were completely false.

“Many warned the government about the surge in Covid-19 cases,” he said. “This warning was issued continuously. But the government made fun of us. The prime minister even declared victory over the virus.”

He also highlighted that the prime minister was holding rallies for state elections and delivering speeches without masks during a surge of Covid cases in the country.

On April 17, while campaigning for the West Bengal Assembly elections, Modi had praised a large crowd at his rally in Purba Bardhaman district’s Asansol city. “Today, in all directions I see huge crowds of people...have witnessed such a rally for the first time,” the prime minister had said. “Today, you have shown your power. The next step is more important – go and vote and take others also.”

Hundreds of thousands of BJP supporters, most of whom did not wear masks, attended the political events, with little regard for physical distancing norms.

The Congress leader, who is a strong critic of the Modi government, on May 22 said that the Centre’s response to the coronavirus crisis, vaccine shortage and high toll is “PMCries”. Gandhi was referring to an event a few days earlier when Modi shed some tears while paying a tribute to those who have died due to the coronavirus.

India’s healthcare infrastructure, which is tackling a surge of Covid-19 cases amid the second wave of the pandemic, has been in shambles as the demand for medical facilities exceeds the supplies.

The country reported 1,86,364 new coronavirus cases in 24 hours, taking the overall tally to 2,75,55,457 since the pandemic first broke out in January 2020. The toll rose by 3,660 to 31,88,95, while the active caseload stood at 23,43,152.

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