Taking strong exception to the letter written by Union Health minister Mansukh Mandaviya to Rahul Gandhi, the Congress party accused the Centre of selectively picking on the Yatra and questioned if similar letters were sent to organisers of yatras by Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in Rajasthan and Karnataka.
In his letter to Rahul Gandhi on Tuesday, Mandaviya urged the Congress leader to ensure that COVID-19 protocols are adhered to or consider suspending the Bharat Jodo Yatra in “national interest”. The letter by the Health minister was addressed to Gandhi as well as Rajasthan Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot.
Congress spokesperson Pawan Khera, speaking to reporters on Wednesday, said, “We are wondering why a similar letter was not sent to the president of BJP in Rajasthan Satish Punia who is carrying out a Janakrosh Yatra there.”
Posing a series of questions to the Centre following the Health minister’s advice to the Congress, Khera further asked what protocols the government has set in place in view of the Covid surge in China and the US.
“Why just Rahul Gandhi, why just Congress party, why just Bharat Jodo Yatra? Have they postponed the Parliament or is the Parliament still in session? If physical Parliament can take place, if the Janakrosh Yatra can take place, if the BJP yatra in Karnataka can take place, if there is no mask compulsory in air travel, why are you picking on Rahul Gandhi and Bharat Jodo Yatra…”
“Please announce Covid protocols, we will all follow Covid protocols,” he added.
Meanwhile, Rajasthan Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot, in a series of tweets, said that the BJP is intimidated by the rising public support for the Bharat Jodo Yatra. He further questioned why no Covid protocols were followed when PM Modi addressed rallies in Tripura two days back.
“During the second wave of COVID-19, PM did huge rallies in West Bengal. If union health ministry’s concern is justified and the purpose not political, he should have written to the PM first,” Gehlot wrote in a series of tweets.
In his letter, the Health minister cited concerns raised by three BJP MPs from Rajasthan stating that the yatra could lead to the spread of coronavirus in the country, and also highlighted that new Himachal Pradesh Chief Minister Sukhwinder Sukhu too tested positive for the virus, after participating in it in Rajasthan.
In the letter, Mandaviya requested both the Congress leaders, that Covid-19 protocols, including the use of masks and sanitisers, be strictly followed during the march and only those who are vaccinated be allowed to participate.
Meanwhile, Mandaviya on Wednesday reviewed the COVID-19 situation in the country, and directed authorities to be alert and strengthen surveillance.
In view of the rising cases in Japan, US, Korea, Brazil and China, the health ministry on Tuesday urged all states and union territories to ramp up the whole genome sequencing of positive samples of Covid to keep track of emerging variants.
(With inputs from PTI)