By Pervez Bari
Bhopal: In the midst of COVID-19 pandemic raging in Madhya Pradesh a political melodrama has erupted in the state between the ruling BJP and the main Opposition Congress party with filing of criminal charges in the police against each other.
While the state is reeling under COVID-19 pandemic which has devastated the life of common man with several thousand deaths, lakhs of positives cases and continuing lockdowns for last 45 days bringing normal life to a screeching halt the political bigwigs of both parties are trying to settle scores with each other.
Madhya Pradesh Congress on Monday filed a cross complaint against the state Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan, demanding registration of a case of ‘culpable homicide’ against him for allegedly hiding actual number of deaths due to the pandemic.
The cross complaints came after an FIR was lodged against former Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Kamal Nath, who is presently state Congress Committee president, with Bhopal crime branch under Section 188 of IPC and Section 54 of Disaster Management Act for spreading misinformation and panic, following a complaint by the MP unit of the BJP. He has been booked for allegedly maligning the image of India internationally by claiming that the “Indian variant” of the Coronavirus was responsible for the second wave of the pandemic.
Sumit Pachori along with Minister Vishwas Sarang, MLA Rameshwar Sharma, Alok Sharma, Rahul Sharma, MLA Krishna Gaur and Santosh Sharma lodged complaint against Kamal Nath.Congress and Youth Congress leaders staged protests, following COVID-19 guidelines, in different parts of the state, while the Bharatiya Janata Yuva Morcha (BJYM) burnt effigies of Kamal Nath at all district centres to protest the former chief minister’s ‘seditious’ comments.
‘1.27 lakh bodies’
Meanwhile, Kamal Nath had said that around “1.27 lakh bodies” had reached the cremation grounds and graveyards in the state during the months of March and April this year and his guess was that 80% of those deaths were due to COVID-19 and the state government was suppressing these figures. He also said the term ‘Indian variant’ was being used globally, denting the image of India, and claimed that Indian students and workers had to face problems because of this.
The cross complaints against Chouhan were filed by Congress leaders including former ministers PC Sharma and Jeetu Patwari, MLAs Arif Masood and Kunal Chaudhry, former Bhopal Mayor Vibha Patel etc. with various police stations of the state, including the crime branch in Bhopal. Besides, a Congress delegation made a submission for cancellation of the FIR against Kamal Nath giving what they termed as evidence of suppression of death figures as well as use of the term ‘Indian variant’ (of COVID-19 strain) by international media. This included records from crematoriums and graveyards in Bhopal showing around 7,000 COVID-19 deaths during the second wave, the leaders said.
A copy of an affidavit of the Union government submitted in Supreme Court on May 9, using the term ‘Indian double mutant strain’ was submitted with the memorandum to prove that the term was used at different official platforms as well. The Congress delegation said Nath had just quoted the international media and leaders, and so a case cannot be filed against him.Senior lawyer Vivek Tankha, who had also shared the Union government affidavit using the term, called upon the BJP to withdraw their complaint or be ready to face a legal case including a defamation suit, as cases under Section 188 IPC and Section 54 of DMA will not stand against Nath.
Indian variant of COVID-19
According to the FIR, “Kamal Nath said Corona started with Chinese variant but now it is Indian variant of COVID-19 which is responsible for the second wave and many countries have suspended flights due to the Indian variant. Nath also said Indians who are working and studying in foreign countries are facing trouble due to it. But in real, foreign countries are trying to help India by sending important things to fight against the epidemic. Nath tried to misguide people and to create disturbance in the country.”
“Nath also violated the norms of WHO in which the organisation clearly said no variant of virus should be named after a country, person, organisation or bird’s name,” the FIR said. The FIR also mentioned that Nath tried to spread anarchy by telling the Congress MLAs to start a fire to ensure justice for farmers.
Meanwhile, MP Medical Education Minister Vishwas Sarang has said that Nath and other Congressmen are trying to create unrest in India and Madhya Pradesh by doing dirty politics as they had done during the 1984 riots. Nath insulted our country internationally and he should have been booked under sedition charges.
After the FIR, Nath said: “People who lost family members due to shortage of oxygen, injections, beds and other facilities during the second wave should also register an FIR against the heartless chief minister and other ministers of MP. People, who lost their family members due to COVID-19 and their deaths have not been included as COVID-19 deaths, should also register an FIR against the CM and his cabinet ministers.”
The war of words between Chouhan and Kamal Nath continued on Monday as well, with Chouhan again saying that the Congress was engaging in ‘festival of deaths’ and planning to spread fire in the state, which will not be allowed. He also targetted Congress chief Sonia Gandhi again, saying she was being “Dhritarashtra” (blind king from Mahabharata who is said to have ignored the misdeeds of his sons – the Kauravas) and ignoring Kamal Nath’s utterances. Chouhan asked whether Gandhi condoned Nath’s statements, and if not if she would initiate action against him. Nath retorted saying no FIRs could silence him and he would keep exposing falsehood by telling the truth. He said even as the epidemic (second wave) raged, Chouhan was busy with elections and left people on their own. The BJP government does not want anyone to fight for the issues faced by people; he said and accused the government of diverting the attention from real issues and focusing on silencing him.
Congress politics in MP in hands of Nath
Meanwhile, Congress politics in MP is in the hands of Nath. There is none to challenge him after Jyotiraditya Scindia’s exit from the party. Now that if the Congress returns to power in MP in 2023, Nath will become the chief minister. He is preparing grounds for 2023 as well as for 2024.
Sonia Gandhi is the acting president of the AICC. There is a demand for a full-time president of the Congress. It is not known whether Rahul Gandhi will be the party president. Those who are against the Gandhi family and those who are loyal to them are with Kamal Nath.
Nitendra Sharma, a leading journalist of the state, opines Nath may be a universally accepted face for the post of the party’s president. Against this background, Nath has hogged the limelight by opening a front against the Chief Minister and the Prime Minister.
A man as astute as Nath knows it well when he has to take the right step. He knows well how to remain active in national politics as well as in state politics. This is the reason why he left behind other Congress leaders by making such controversial statements. The FIR has put Nath ahead of others in the party.
He may be a face of the Opposition against the BJP in 2024. Nath is on good terms with all Opposition leaders like Mamata Banerjee, Akhilesh Yadav, Stalin and Chandrababu Naidu. The COVID-19 pandemic has hit the NDA government in the country. Therefore, Nath has played his cards well to draw benefits from the current situation.