Gujarat Chief Minister Vijay Rupani, on Monday, strongly defended his government in the Assembly over its handling of Covid-19 pandemic while also emphatically saying that it was not proper to hold Namaste Trump event, held on February 24 at Motera Stadium in Ahmedabad, responsible for the spread of Covid-19 in the state.
US President Donald Trump and his wife Melania Trump had started their India tour from Ahmedabad where they addressed a huge gathering of people at Motera Stadium in the presence of Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
Rupani was speaking in the House on a proposal to pass a resolution to collectively fight and defeat Covid-19. The resolution — moved by Deputy Chief Minister Nitin Patel who also holds the Health portfolio – witnessed marathon discussion of around four hours in which the opposition criticised the government over its handling of the situation and also for holding Namaste Trump in Ahmedabad at a time when the virus had already entered India.
Senior Congress MLA and Gujarat Congress president Amit Chavda said that the current situation of Covid-19 in Gujarat was largely due to the Namaste Trump event in which lakhs of people had come when the country had already seen presence of the virus. Referring to a statement of BJP MLA Jagdish Panchal in the House that 3 lakh people had come for the event, Chavda said, “It shows that this government lacks in policy and intent to deal with the coronavirus.”
“President Trump was invited to Gujarat on February 25 for political ambition. The time, which should have been used to make preparations to handle coronavirus, was spent preparing for the event… A number of foreign visitors came and they were the reason why the infection could enter Gujarat…,” Chavda said.
Chavda also lambasted the state and central governments for the “ill-planned lockdown” which, according to him, resulted in serious recession and deaths of number of migrant workers.
He alleged that during lockdown, people were facing difficulty in getting milk, but those well connected could get a bottle of whiskey.
Other Congress MLAs like Leader of Opposition Paresh Dhanani, Shailesh Parmar, Anil Joshiyara, Punja Vansh, Vikram Madam also slammed the state government.
Dhanani also held the Namaste Trump event for the spread of the virus.
Shailesh Parmar and Vikram Madam alleged that the government was hiding actual figures related to Covid-19 in the state.
Reacting to the allegations, Rupani said that the government had decided to bring the resolution in the Assembly knowingly fully well to what extent it (the allegations) could go. He said that the government was completely transparent and wanted to give out a message to the people of Gujarat that all the elected representatives were very concerned about them in this unprecedented pandemic.
On the allegations related to Namaste Trump event, Rupani said, “You are alleging that this (spread of coronavirus) has happened because of (Namaste) Trump…. I do not want to make a political comment. But, I challenge you Amitbhai (Chavda) to show me one statement made by you before February 24 claiming that coronavirus could spread in the state because of the event. (The fact is that) You also did not imagine.”
“And the programme (Namaste Trump) was held on February 24. …15 days after that, there was not a single case in Gujarat. This is because the infection was not there. The first case was reported on March 18 in Rajkot and since then it gradually increased… So, it is not appropriate to club (Namaste) Trump event (with the spread of coronavirus in Gujarat).”
On the allegation about hiding Covid-19 figures, Rupani said, “The government does not have any intention of hiding figures. I precisely remember when the infection was highest in Gujarat after Maharashtra in April, May, June. Then also we were saying that the mortality was due to comorbidity. And the ICMR accepted in June that comorbid deaths and primary coronavirus deaths have to be separated.”
Defending the government’s decision to impose lockdown, Rupani said, “Covid-19 was new. The two months’ lockdown gave the governments time. And India was not the only country to impose lockdown. Many other countries did the same.”
On Opposition’s allegation that lockdown resulted in severe economic recession, Rupani said that some of the developed countries in Europe are also hit very hard.
He added that to deal with the recession, the Gujarat government has announced Rs 14,000 crore relief package.
“Currently, India’s positivity rate is 8.52 and ours is 3.25. It is good, but that does not mean that we have succeeded,” Rupani said.
The CM also asked opposition not to doubt the intention of the state government and called upon them to join hands to collectively defeat the pandemic.
Earlier, Deputy CM Nitin Patel provided details of the actions taken by the state government to mitigate the pandemic situation. He said that Gujarat which was once second in the country in terms of cases, is now at 13th.
Indirectly referring to Tablighi Jamaat, without naming it, Patel alleged that initially one Jamaat was responsible for the spread of virus in Ahmedabad, Bhavnagar and Vadodara. However, Patel was contested by Congress MLA Gyasuddin Shaikh who said, “All know how the virus entered Ahmedabad… It is not appropriate to blame one community for this.”
Minister of State for Home Pradeepsinh Jadeja highlighted the work done by various departments of the state government during the pandemic and added that a number of employees died on the line of duty. He added that even World Health Organisation has praised the efforts of Gujarat government.
The resolution was unanimously passed in the House.
Monday was the first day of the five-day monsoon session of Gujarat Assembly. The session is being held under a number of precautionary steps put in place by Speaker Rajendra Trivedi.
Visitors are not allowed to visit the Assembly during the session.
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