The Union Health Minister has written to Congress leader Rahul Gandhi, asking him to ensure Covid “protocol” is followed in his ‘Bharat Jodo Yatra’, or he should suspend it “in the national interest”. The Congress, calling it “BJP’s usual ploy for diversion”, has sought to know what the protocol is, as India has eased norms such as the mask mandate over the past year.
Minister Mansukh Mandaviya has written: “I request [Rahul Gandhi] that Covid protocol, including use of masks and sanitisers, be strictly followed during the march and only those who are vaccinated be allowed to participate.”
The letter further says, “If this Covid protocol cannot be followed, then, in view of the public health emergency, and to save the country from the Covid pandemic, I request you to suspend the ‘Bharat Jodo Yatra’ in the national interest.”
Dated December 20, when the yatra was in Rajasthan, the letter refers to three BJP MPs from the state having written to the minister “to express concern”.
The yatra entered Haryana on Wednesday.
In its clapback, the Congress cited PM Narendra Modi’s recent poll campaign in Gujarat and the BJP’s ongoing yatras in two states. “The BJP taking out yatras in Karnataka and Rajasthan. Has the Health Minister sent a letter to them?” said Congress spokesperson Pawan Khera.
“Please announce Covid protocols; we will follow them,” the party further said.
The Health Ministry held a meeting today to consider re-imposing some norms after a spike in China sparked concerns across the world.
The three Rajasthan MPs, whose letter the minister referred to, highlighted that Himachal Pradesh Chief Minister Sukhvinder Singh Sukhu tested positive for coronavirus after his participation in the yatra.
— NDTV (@ndtv) December 21, 2022
Congress leader Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury said the BJP is “reacting in panic”.
“Was Modi ji wearing a mask when he went door to door to seek votes in Gujarat?” he remarked.
“The yatra has dented the propaganda the BJP spreads trough godi (pliant) media,” he said.
“But now Rahul Gandhi is all over social media. The yatra is being talked about, it’s making a massive impact. That’s why the Modi government has deployed (Mansukh) Mandaviya to use any excuse and try to turn people against the yatra,” he added.
Rahul Gandhi has not reacted.