The development is likely to increase pressure on the government to adjourn the Parliament session, which the Opposition has been demanding.
- By Liz Mathew and Avaneesh Mishra
THE threat of coronavirus infection reached Rashtrapati Bhavan and Parliament on Friday, with BJP MP Dushyant Singh announcing he was self-quarantining himself after attending a party in Lucknow attended by a Bollywood singer who has tested positive. Two other MPs, Anupriya Patel and the Trinamool’s Derek O’Brien, who came in touch with him, have gone into self-isolation.
An MP from Jhalawar-Baran in Rajasthan, Dushyant was present at a party thrown by a nephew of former MP Akbar Ahmad Dumpy in Lucknow on March 15, also attended by singer Kanika Kapoor, along with mother and former Rajasthan chief minister Vasundhara Raje. Kanika flew back from London a few days ago and tested positive on Friday, four days after the Lucknow party.
Dushyant, who has not been tested, was attending Parliament till Friday, and mingled with other parliamentarians in Central Hall as well as attended Standing Committee meetings. On Thursday, he was among the invitees to a breakfast for Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh MPs hosted by President Ram Nath Kovind. Union ministers Rajnath Singh, Smriti Irani, Gajendra Singh Shekhawat and Mahendra Singh Pandey were among those present at the breakfast.
Sources said Dushyant Singh was also part of a private dinner hosted by an MP, in which a number of other young parliamentarians, including a junior minister, were present. While Kovind appeared to have not come in close contact with any of the guests, sources said Rashtrapati Bhavan was looking at the medical protocols to be followed.
In Uttar Pradesh, state Minister of Medical Health & Family Welfare Jai Pratap Singh, who was also present at Kanika’s party, went into self-isolation. There was no confirmation on whether officials are trying to trace whom all Dushyant had come in contact with since March 15.
Raje announced on Twitter that she and Dushyant were going into self-quarantine. “While in Lucknow, I attended a dinner with my son Dushyant & his in-laws. Kanika, who has unfortunately tested positive for #Covid19 was also a guest. As a matter of abundant caution, my son & I have immediately self-quarantined and we’re taking all necessary precautions,” she tweeted.
Anupriya Patel, who attended a meeting of the Standing Committee on Transport, Tourism and Culture along with Dushyant on Thursday, tweeted, “I was present at an event yesterday. Associate Member of Parliament Mr Dushyant Singh was also present at the event. As a precaution, I am going to self isolation. I will follow the necessary guidelines by the government.” O’Brien was seated next to Dushyant at the meeting.
The BJP MP is also believed to have come in touch with a number of mediapersons on the Parliament premises. Kanika, who sang the hit Bollywood single Baby Doll, flew back to Mumbai from London on March 9, and two days later, went to Lucknow. The family has claimed they were screened when they landed in India and allegations that they had dodged check-up were baseless.
Apart from her, three of her family members and a junior resident doctor at Lucknow’s King George Medical University (KGMU) who examined them were found positive Friday, taking the total number of cases to 23 in Uttar Pradesh. Eight have recovered.
Talking to The Indian Express, Minister Jai Pratap Singh said the party had been hosted by Dumpy’s nephew at their house and that he didn’t meet Kanika there. “Vaundharaji, her son and other family members, my wife and sisters were all present at the party. Several other prominent persons from Lucknow also attended. However, we didn’t know Kanika personally and did not meet her. As of now we all are asymptomatic, and have gone into self-isolation. Only if we have symptoms, our samples will be taken for testing.”
Lucknow airport Director A K Sharma denied any lapse on their part in checking Kanika, pointing out that there was no directive to screen domestic passengers. “At Lucknow, there is no direct flight from London. She had come to Mumbai and from there to Lucknow. The responsibility to test her was of the airport she landed first in India, so I cannot comment on that. However, she is claiming that she was screened.”
In a statement, Kanika’s father Rajiv Kapoor said, “Kanika came to India late March 9 and, after staying for a day in Mumbai, reached Lucknow on March 11. Since then she was in Lucknow. She was normal and there was no issue as such. Since last two days she started having mild fever and cough. So we requested doctors to get her tested. Friday morning we came to know that she is positive. The doctors have advised isolation for at least four-five days, after which she will be tested again. There is no panic or worry.”
Kapoor acknowledged that Kanika had also attended at least three “small family Holi gatherings” after arrival in Lucknow, on March 13, 14 and 15, as she had no symptoms. “Around 300 people might have come in contact with her. We have conveyed the information to everyone. In my family, other than Kanika, there is my wife, my mother and two domestic helps. We are all being tested.”
In an Instagram post Friday, Kanika said, “For the past 4 days I have had signs of flu, I got myself tested and it came positive for Covid-19. My family and I are in complete quarantine now and following medical advice on how to move forward. Contact mapping of people I have been in touch with is underway as well. I was scanned at the airport as per normal procedure 10 days ago when I came back home, the symptoms have developed only 4 days ago. At this stage I would like to urge you all to practice self-isolation and get tested if you have the signs. I am feeling ok, like a normal flu and a mild fever, however we need to be sensible citizens at this time and think of all around us.”
The development is likely to increase pressure on the government to adjourn the Parliament session, which the Opposition has been demanding. Addressing BJP MPs earlier this week, Prime Minister Narendra Modi had said the House would function till April 3, as scheduled.
Congress MP Karti P Chidambaram, who has been demanding that Parliament be shut, told The Indian Express, “While you have been dispersing all congregations, how can Parliament be an exception? Now my worst fears have come true.” To reassure the House, Speaker Om Birla had conducted an inspection of measures at Parliament House Estate. Visitors entering the premises are being screened.