Friday, June 14, 2024

Whole ‘Covid drama’ being orchestrated to ‘derail’ Bharat Jodo Yatra: Jairam Ramesh

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Congress leader Jairam Ramesh on Friday accused the government of orchestrating the “Covid drama” to defame and derail the Rahul Gandhi-led Bharat Jodo Yatra that is all set to enter Delhi, and said his party will follow any protocol based on scientific advice that is uniformly implemented.

The Rahul Gandhi-led Yatra entered Faridabad on the last day of its Haryana leg in the first phase and will reach Delhi on Saturday morning.

DMK MP Kanimozhi joined the yatra here besides some sportspersons.

At a press conference in Pakhal village here, Ramesh said, “This whole Covid drama over the last two days has been orchestrated to defame and derail the Bharat Jodo Yatra from coming to Delhi. That’s the only objective”.

He was asked if the government was selectively picking on the yatra after Union Health Minister Mansukh Mandaviya wrote to Gandhi to consider suspending the march if Covid protocols could not be followed.

“Any protocol based on scientific and medical advice that is uniformly implemented will be followed by the Congress party. We have always followed it,” he said.

In a swipe at Prime Minister Narendra Modi, he said, “We were not the party which gave a solution that the Covid situation (after its outbreak in 2020) will be won in 18 days, like the Mahabharata war”.

“There was one gentleman who said that we will win the Covid war in 18 days, there was on gentleman who advised Indians to deal with the pandemic by going to their balconies and bang ‘thalis’. These were the remedies given for Covid, if you recall,” the senior Congress leader said.

Ramesh said if there is a scientific or medical protocol, we will follow it voluntarily.

“I wore the mask longer than the prime minister wore it yesterday,” he said, while claiming that the prime minister’s mask was for TV.

Ramesh had on Thursday said the Union Health Minister’s letter to Gandhi over following Covid protocols in the march was based on concerns raised by three BJP MPs and not on advice of experts or scientists.

Gandhi had also slammed the advisory, saying the government is coming up with “excuses” to stop the yatra.

Earlier addressing a press conference here along with senior leaders AICC in-charge for Haryana affairs Shaktisinh Gohil, Bhupinder Singh Hooda and party leader Kanhaiya Kumar, Ramesh said, “If there is a directive to wear masks, we will wear masks, if there is a directive to maintain social distancing, that will be ensured”.

Ramesh said he has advised the “Bharat Yatris this morning to wear masks” during the yatra.

“I don’t understand what the controversy is all about. There is no directive, there is no protocol,” he said.

On Parliamentary Affairs Minister Pralhad Joshi’s reported remarks that Congress leaders want to give a break to the yatra to holiday abroad, Ramesh dubbed it as baseless.

“I want to challenge Prahlad Joshi. If what he is saying comes true, I will publicly apologise and if what he claims turns false, he should do the same,” he said.

On Parliament being adjourned sine die six days ahead of schedule, Ramesh said the reality is that there was no business left for four more days and some opposition parties had flagged this point “that government does not have any bills and agenda”.

Kanhaiya Kumar also charged that the BJP government has made every attempt to defame the yatra.

Detailing the yatra’s route in Delhi, Gohil said the march will halt for the night in Faridabad and will enter Delhi from the Badarpur border near Badarpur Metro station on Saturday morning.

At 6 am Saturday, the march will begin from Haryana end and after walking a distance of 5 km the yatra will enter Delhi.

“We will reach Ashram Chowk at 10:30 am. The yatra will resume from ‘Jairam Ashram’ from Ashram Chowk. It will move to Mathura Road, Zakir Hussain Marg, India Gate, Tilak Marg, ITO, Bahadurshah Zafar Marg, Netaji Subhas Marg,” he said.

After reaching Red Fort, Gandhi along with some others will visit Rajghat, Shanti Sthal, Veer Bhumi by car and pay floral tributes.

After a short break starting Saturday night, the yatra will resume on January 3 in Delhi, head to Uttar Pradesh, then again enter Haryana, move towards Punjab and finally, conclude its journey in Jammu and Kashmir.

Gohil said no separate permission has been applied for the yatra in Delhi or any other state through which the foot march has passed.

He said the party gives the route plan to the Central Reserve Police Force for security arrangements.

“We have neither applied for separate permission anywhere nor there is any need as this yatra is of the entire country,” he said.

“We also cooperate with agencies concerned. We hope the administration in Delhi will cooperate and we will also cooperate,” he said.

On Gandhi wearing a T-shirt despite the winter chill, Ramesh said, “This is your observation, not a question”.

When the reporter again asked if Gandhi does not feel cold, Ramesh said in a lighter vein, “No, he doesn’t feel cold, he is thick-skinned”.

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