NEW DELHI: The Congress on Tuesday hit back at BJP chief JP Nadda for accusing the party of playing politics on COVID-19 and said it is the BJP which is trying to make the issue political to hide its failures.
Congress senior spokesperson Ajay Maken said it is not just the Congress which is attacking the government over its handling of the pandemic, but leading journals and experts have also criticised it.
He said this issue is not political, and it is not a Congress versus BJP issue but a government versus opposition one.
Nadda earlier wrote to Congress chief Sonia Gandhi and accused the party of playing politics, misleading people and creating false panic in the fight against COVID-19.
Nadda in his four-page letter to Gandhi also alleged that the conduct of its leaders, including Rahul Gandhi, during the pandemic will be remembered for "duplicity and pettiness".
Hitting back, Maken said the top Congress leaders, including former prime minister Manmohan Singh, and Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi, have been giving constructive and positive suggestions to the government in letters to the prime minister.
"What we are doing is not political. The former prime minister, Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi have given constructive suggestions to the PM. This is not a political issue, it is a government versus opposition issue and not one party versus the other one.
"The BJP is trying to make this entire thing political as they are trying to divert attention from their failures. Government of India has completely failed in managing the pandemic," he told reporters at a virtual press conference. Maken said the manner in which the BJP president wrote to Sonia Gandhi was shameful and full of arrogance, while noting that they expected their suggestions to be taken care of.
"Unfortunately, Nadda's reply is full of arrogance. It does not behove of him to write like this," he said.
Maken cited 'The Lancet' which said the Modi government has to own up its failures and termed it a self-inflicted catastrophe.
He said that 'The Nature' journal and the Indian Medical Association (IMA) have given suggestions similar to the ones given by Congress leaders.
"When Nadda ji accuses the Congress, is he also accusing the Lancet, IMA and other experts who have criticised the Modi government on the pandemic? Please shed this arrogance and wake up after admitting your mistakes.
We want you to help people and save their lives in the pandemic," Maken said.
"The question is you are doing politics, not us, because not just the opposition parties but also science journals, IMA and experts are accusing you," he said.
Leader of Opposition in the Rajya Sabha Mallikarjun Kharge in a tweet said, "Sri @JPNadda ji, I am not surprised that you still haven't got out of the habit of blaming @INCIndia for everything, inspite of @BJP4India being at helm of affairs for over 7 years."
"Nadda ji, @INCIndia state governments have already announced free vaccines for everyone above 18 years of age. However, it is disheartening that the BJP government isn't using the Rs 35k allocated by Parliament to make vaccines free for all. People have the right to know," he said.
Kharge said India won't forget that while people struggled to breathe, the prime minister was busy with rallies and building a palace for himself and added that "Nadda ji, instead of writing letters to the @INCIndia president, please tender an apology to India and lend an ear to their pleas!" He said that instead of channelling resources to bring India out of the deep crisis, the BJP government exported vaccines, refused to club election phases and allowed super-spreader events.
The Congress leader claimed that damage control was done, not to save people but to save BJP's image.
Congress leader P Chidambaram also said, "Instead of writing an ill-informed letter to the Congress president, BJP president JP Nadda may read the guest column in the New York Times on May 6, 2021."
"The authors are not Congress members. Their names may ring a bell in JP Nadda. Dr Abhijit Banerjee and Dr Esther Duflo, Nobel Prize winners," he said, citing their article 'India's coronavirus problem is now the world's problem' in New York Times.
Maken said the Congress was trying to put the government on the right path, but it was ridiculing senior Congress leaders who were giving suggestions.
Asked what an all-party meeting would achieve, he said going by Congress' vast administrative experience, they would be able to put their suggestions on the table.
The Congress leader also questioned the prime minister and the BJP chief on the bodies found floating in the Ganga river.
He alleged that the BJP government still did not repent the manner in which they handled the pandemic and failed the people of the country.
Maken also said that with only over 12 lakh people vaccinated in the last 24 hours, it would still take three years and eight months to vaccinate all 90 crore adults in the country.
He said the UK has already given an order of 6 crore doses by June 2020, US for 10 crore doses in July 2020, and added that India gave its first order as late as in January 2021, while it continued to export 6 crore doses abroad.
"I want to ask PM Modi, JP Nadda, the BJP and its government whether the country will remain under lockdown till 3.8 years when all will be vaccinated. Is this the preparation you have done for vaccination," he asked.