Panaji, April 27 (IANS) Goa's battle against the raging Covid-19 pandemic in the state appears to have reignited a fresh bout of one-up-manship between Chief Minister Pramod Sawant and Health Minister Vishwajit Rane.
Traditional political rivals before Rane formally joined the BJP in 2017, the see-sawing relationship between the two leading politicians, who are anchoring Goa's fight against the steep surge in Covid-19 infections, has played out in the open once again over the issue of imposing lockdown in the state.
Rane on Monday made a plea for imposition of a Maharashtra and Karnataka-like lockdown in Goa, on a day when the state registered a record 2,321 fresh cases and 38 deaths.
"Goa definitely needs to go under lockdown on the lines of other states like Maharashtra and Karnataka for a particular period. More than economic activities, the lives of the people matter to us," Rane had said.
The Health Minister even tweeted that Goa could stand to lose more than 200-300 lives "within the next 10 days" if the lockdown was not imposed. The tweet was later deleted.
When asked for a response to the comment made by Rane seeking a lockdown, Sawant said: "You can ask him about it."
Sawant has, however, remained steadfast in his position that a lockdown is not feasible yet and the measure would be considered if the situation in the state deteriorates further.
The Chief Minister for now has found the backing of the state's business and industry captains, who have thrown their weight behind Sawant over the issue of skipping lockdown.
A lockdown, said the president of the Goa Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Manoj Caculo, is unnecessary, while restraint is essential, as he slammed wedding parties and election related public gatherings.
"We strongly support the CM in his decision to keep economic activities rolling by avoiding a complete lockdown. We need to keep businesses running to ensure that all the employees are paid. It's the uncontrolled social and political events that are responsible for the spread," Caculo said.
"Look at the videos of election results day or wedding parties... are the protocols being followed? Let the government impose strict restrictions on them," Caculo said.
Results of elections to the five municipalities were declared on Monday, when victorious candidates were seen mobbed by their supporters in public.
Other industry associations like the Goa Small Industries Association has also backed the Chief Minister over the issue of not imposing a lockdown.
Rane's popular cry for imposing a lockdown has, however, once again exposed the rift between him and the Chief Minister, that too at a time of crisis.
Opposition politicians like Maharashtrawadi Gomantak Party MLA Sudin Dhavalikar have pitched their support behind Rane and his demand for a lockdown for now.
"Our health infrastructure is overburdened, and as per reports from the health department and senior doctors, we are expecting to witness more cases and higher mortality rate if the situation remains the same. We need to prioritise human life over economy. We can bring back the economy, but not the dead," Dhavalikar said.
He also demanded a 15-day lockdown to arrest the tide of Covid-19 cases.
"I understand the apprehensions of the industry body as well as other small scale businesses and daily wage workers on the imposition of lockdown. But considering the grim situation in Goa, there is no other alternative to imposing a 15-day lockdown to break this chain and curb the spread of this second wave of Covid-19," Dhavalikar said.
Meanwhile, state Congress president Girish Chodankar has accused Sawant and Rane of trying to score brownie points over each other at a time of a crisis.
"The entire system has collapsed. The Health Minister and the Chief Minister are busy scoring political brownie points over each other. People are suffering. The government is clueless and has no plan of action in place," Chodankar said.