PM Modi says Congress prompted workers to return home and spread disease, draws flak

The Congress, Shiv Sena and others attacked the Prime Minister for accusing the opposition of "inciting" migrants to flee Mumbai during the COVID-19 lockdown.
File photo of Prime Minister Narendra Modi in Parliament
File photo of Prime Minister Narendra Modi in Parliament
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Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Monday launched a scathing attack on the Congress, accusing it of strengthening separatism in the country and becoming the "leader of the tukde-tukde gang" by following the Britishers' policy of "divide and rule". Replying in Lok Sabha to the debate on Motion of Thanks to President Ram Nath Kovind's address to the joint sitting of Parliament, Modi said the Congress' "arrogance" has not gone away despite multiple electoral defeats and its "misdeeds" seem to indicate that it has made up its mind not to come to power for the next 100 years.

The Prime Minister said the Congress "crossed all limits" during the COVID-19 pandemic and accused them of instigating and scaring innocent labourers into fleeing to their native states. "You have committed a big sin," he added.

During the first wave of COVID-19, the Congress crossed all limits and committed the "big sin" of prompting migrant workers to leave Mumbai to "spread" the disease in states like Uttar Pradesh and Bihar, Modi said, adding that the Delhi government also did it. The infection spread in states like Uttar Pradesh, Bihar and Punjab due to this sin, he claimed.

"Your conduct made the country think that you don't consider the country yours. People's 'sukh-dukh' is not yours," he said.

However, this comment did not go down well with many, who criticised the Prime Minister. Reacting to Modi's claims, Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal tweeted, "the Prime Minister's statement is completely false...".

The Congress in its response accused the Prime Minister of mocking the misery of people who lost their lives and livelihood in the COVID-19 pandemic and dismissed his claims of economic gains as "propaganda". Congress general secretary and chief spokesperson Randeep Surjewala claimed a clear message has come from the House that if people want relief from "severe unemployment, extreme inflation, falling incomes and extreme poverty", then the BJP "will have to be defeated" in the elections.

"Those pushing workers and their families into the whirlpool of misery due to the lockdown, instead of apologising are now questioning the 'helping hands'," he said, after the Prime Minister alleged that the Congress instigated people to come out during the lockdown leading to the spread of the pandemic. "Lakhs of people lost their loved ones due to the incompetence of the government, but their pain was shamelessly laughed at in Parliament today. It will be remembered," Surjewala said.

Shiv Sena leader Priyanka Chaturvedi also attacked Prime Minister Modi for accusing the opposition of "inciting" migrants to flee Mumbai during the COVID-19 lockdown and said that if looking after the stranded was wrong, then they would commit this mistake "a 100 times".

She said four hours before the lockdown was announced due to coronavirus, trains and interstate travel were stopped. "Migrants, majorly daily wage labourers, were left stranded. If looking after them, with food and shelter, was wrong in the eyes of the PM, then (we) will make this mistake 100 times over ... for humanity," she said on Twitter.

Chaturvedi asked if the nation could forget the time when Shramik trains started, how the poor labourers, who were left with no income, were being charged for tickets and the state government stepped in to pay their fare. "If that is a mistake in the eyes of the PM, (we are) willing to commit this mistake 100 times over," she said.

The Shiv Sena leader also said that when the trains were taken in directions other than their destination, the passengers did not have meals or water. "If providing relief to them was a mistake, will do this 100 times over. Can one forget the searing image of a mother lying dead and her two young kids unaware," she said.

She asked that when the trains requested by states were not given to them, and the issue was politicised by the then rail minister in sheer arrogance of control, should the citizens of this nation have been left alone?

"Have some sensitivity, some humility to sufferings faced before making these comments. If the PM would have watched closely, he would have seen how these migrant labourers, on reaching their homes, were first sprayed with sanitisers in abject humiliation. Was raising voice against the sufferings a mistake? If yes, will commit such mistakes 100 times over," she said.

Chaturvedi, the Rajya Sabha MP of the Shiv Sena, said, "Last but not the least, the second wave was mismanaged because the Union government was busy seeking votes at large rallies, disregarding preparations for scaling up beds, oxygen and medicines. It failed to stock vaccines. Have some honesty in discourse.”

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