Politicians panic as many top Maha leaders in Covid grip

Sending alarm bells ringing, several Maharashtra leaders across political parties have been infected by Covid-19, including two who have tested positive for the second time, officials said here on Friday.

The infected dignitaries include Nationalist Congress Party State President and Water Resources Minister Jayant Patil, Health Minister Rajesh Tope, Food & Drugs Administration Minister Dr. Rajendra Shingne, Minister of State for Labour and Prahar Janshakti leader Bachchu Kadu.

Maharashtra Congress President Nana F. Patole has gone into isolation after two of his staffers tested positive and his test reports are awaited, said a party source.

Besides, Home Minister Anil Deshmukh is also in isolation at his Nagpur residence after testing positive earlier this week, and senior NCP leader Eknath Khadse is also infected.

Both Kadu and Khadse have tested positive for the second time, while the latter’s daughter-in-law and BJP MP from Raver Raksha Khadse has also been infected.

Khadse had been infected in November last year which had led to a delay in attending to the Enforcement Directorate summons, displayed Covid-19 symptoms again in December and first week of Feb, and has not tested positive.

The concerns are further compounded by the upcoming Maharashtra Legislature’s Budget Session starting here on March 1 with the Budget likely to be presented on March 8.

The Maharashtra Legislative Council Chairman Ramraje Naik-Nimbalkar has urged the Centre and State governments to ensure priority vaccination drive for all legislators and Legislature staffers.

“We have 287 MLAs, more than 60 MLCs Plus, around 700-800 people work in the Legislature complex, besides officials from Mantralaya and ministries set up camp offices here during the sessions,” Naik-Nimbalkar pointed out.

In the past 11 months since the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic havoc, around 15 state ministers have been infected, besides several MPs, MLAs, MLCs, senior leaders of different political parties, close aides or security personnel of various bigwigs including Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray.