His criticism of camp conditions sparks political war of words

In a move reminiscent of his surprise visit to Bhatta-Parsaul in Noida in 2011 when the BSP was in power, Congress vice- president Rahul Gandhi made an unannounced visit to the Muzaffarnagar communal riots relief camps in Shamli on Sunday. It caught the Samajwadi Party government in the State off-guard.

After meeting displaced riot victims at camps in four villages in Shamli district, where he faced sporadic protests, Mr. Gandhi slammed the State government for the state of affairs at the camps and the victims’ plight.

“The conditions… are very bad; children are dying,” he said in Muzaffarnagar. The State government needed to act proactively to improve conditions at the camps.

“Uttar Pradesh has a young Chief Minister who needs to focus more on improving conditions at the camps and facilitating mediation between communities,” Mr. Gandhi told journalists at Vanrat Hall near Rana Chowk in Muzaffarnagar.

His unscheduled visit, and his attack on the government, sparked a war of words. Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav accused the Congress of doing politics over the communal violence.

Talking to journalists on the sidelines of a function in the State capital on Sunday, Mr. Yadav said the SP government was willing to act on any valid suggestion made by the Congress leader.