Follow COVID-19 protocol or postpone Bharat Jodo Yatra, Health Minister Mandaviya urges Rahul Gandhi

Health Minister Mansukh Mandaviya’s letter to Rahul Gandhi and Ashok Gehlot to follow Covid protocols or suspend Bharat Jodo Yatra in “national interest” triggers a political controversy

December 21, 2022 10:57 am | Updated 06:41 pm IST - New Delhi

Union Health Minister Mansukh Mandaviya. File photo

Union Health Minister Mansukh Mandaviya. File photo | Photo Credit: Vijay Soneji

A raging controversy has broken out between the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)-led Central government and the Congress over Union Health Minister Mansukh Mandaviya’s letter to Congress MP Rahul Gandhi, that he must either follow strict COVID-19 guidelines or suspend his Bharat Jodo Yatra in the “interest of the country.” 

Mr. Mandaviya had written a letter to Congress MP Rahul Gandhi and Rajasthan Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot asking to follow the COVID-19 guidelines strictly during the party'sBharat Jodo Yatra.

"Follow the COVID guidelines strictly during Bharat Jodo Yatra which is going on in Rajasthan. Use of masks-sanitiser should be implemented. Only vaccinated people should participate," the Health Minister said in the letter written on Tuesday, December 20, 2022.

Mr. Mandaviya referred to letters written to him by Rajasthan MPs P.P.Chaudhary and Nihal Chand expressing concerns over guidelines not being followed. 

“Follow the COVID guidelines strictly during Bharat Jodo Yatra which is going on in Rajasthan. Use of masks-sanitiser should be implemented. Only vaccinated people should participate,” said Mr. Mandaviya.

Mr. Mandaviya has also requested to postpone the foot march if the following protocol is not possible. "If following COVID protocol is not possible then the Bharat Jodo Yatra be postponed in the national interest, taking note of the public health emergency," the letter further stated.

Sources said that the COVID-19 positive diagnosis of Himachal Pradesh’s newly elected Chief Minister Sukhwinder Singh Sukhu after participating in the Rajasthan leg of the Yatra and the building up of a massive COVID19 wave in China were some of the reasons behind the letters of warning.

Congress communication chief Jairam Ramesh, in a statement said, BJP MPs from Rajasthan wrote about following Covid protocols after the yatra met with enormous success in their State.

“Parliament is meeting normally. Masks are no longer compulsory anywhere including on flights. BJP has taken out yatras in Rajasthan and Karnataka. There has been no advisory from the Centre to States of late, except the one issued yesterday on genome sequencing,” Mr. Ramesh said.

He also accused the Narendra Modi Government of delaying the imposition of a Covid lockdown by a week in March 2020 “to enable the toppling of the Congress Govt in Madhya Pradesh”.

“Public health is far too serious an issue on which to play party politics. If there is a protocol for gatherings Bharat Jodo Yatra will abide by it undoubtedly,” added Mr. Ramesh.

“I want to ask the BJP if Prime Minister Modi followed COVID protocols during Gujarat polls? I think Mansukh Mandaviya doesn’t like Rahul Gandhi ji’s  Bharat Jodo Yatra but the people are liking and joining it. Mandaviya has deployed to divert public’s attention,”Congress leader in Lok Sabha Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury said.

His Lok Sabha colleague and party chief whip Manickam Tagore described the Health Minister’s as a sign of “nervousness”.

“The government seems to be nervous because of the response the yatra has received,” Mr. Tagore told The Hindu, adding,”Our Bharat Yatris are all double vaccinated”.

The Bharat Jodo Yatra that completed its 100 days recently and entered Haryana on Wednesday morning and will take a nine-day break once it enters Delhi on December 24 and will resume its onward march from January 3.

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