On Covid And Rallies, Nitish Kumar’s Tacit Support For Rahul Gandhi’s Yatra

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On Covid And Rallies, Nitish Kumar's Tacit Support For Rahul Gandhi's Yatra

Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar has accused the BJP of having double standards when it comes to Covid and public rallies, citing the Centre’s “suspend yatra” letter to Rahul Gandhi amid the Covid surge in China. Speaking to reporters today, Mr Kumar questioned the timing of the BJP move, lending tacit support to the ongoing Bharat Jodo Yatra.

“In between they (the BJP) said one should not worry about Covid. Now they are worrying. They started this when the Congress people are holding their yatra. Now, everybody has their rights. Don’t they hold yatras themselves?” Mr Kumar said.

The Centre wrote to Rahul Gandhi about the Bharat Jodo Yatra on Tuesday, saying it should be suspended “in national interest” if proper Covid safety measures cannot be followed. Health minister Mansukh Mandaviya has insisted that masks and sanitisers be used and only vaccinated people be allowed to participate.

Masks have not been mandatory for months, and there has been no directive even in view of the China surge. The government has said there is no cause to panic. The party, though, has suspended its Jan Akrosh Yatra — held in Rajasthan in response to the Bharat Jodo Yatra.

When the Congress questioned the government move, citing Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s recent election rallies in Gujarat, Mr Mandaviya alleged that “one family” was seeking “special treatment”.

“It’s my duty to ensure Covid doesn’t spread in the country… Questioning me is like obstructing me from doing my duty… I cannot neglect my duty of stopping potential Covid spread just because one family perhaps believes it is above the rules,” Mr Mandaviya said.

The BJP faced massive criticism during the Delta variant surge in the summer of 2021, which coincided with a string of assembly elections. There were allegations that the government’s refusal to clamp down on election rallies drove the second Covid wave, in which thousands died. The images of crematoriums working 24×7 and bodies flowing down the Ganga had made international headlines.   

The Congress has accused the BJP of hypocrisy, alleging that it was using Covid as an excuse to stop the Bharat Jodo Yatra “as it is getting popular across the country”.

“Now in the name of corona they want the yatra to be stopped whereas, during the peak of the pandemic the central leaders of the BJP government and Prime Minister were doing big election rallies, their concern is not Covid, they only want to stop the yatra of Rahul Gandhi,” said All India Congress Committee spokesperson and Himachal Pradesh legislator Kuldeep Singh Rathore.

“If the BJP was worried about the country, they would have written a letter to Satish Poonia as well who is taking out ‘Jan Aakrosh Yatra’ in Rajasthan,” added senior Congress leader Pawan Khera.

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