In his address to the debate in Lok Sabha, Prime Minister (PM) Narendra Modi on Monday, 7 February, honoured singer Lata Mangeshkar, before unleashing an attack on the Opposition parties.
In honour of Mangeshkar’s legacy, he said that "she unified the nation through her music."
Modi followed that up with a vehement verbal attack on the Opposition parties, alleging that they instigated migrant workers to breach lockdown during the first wave of COVID-19.
His remarks, however, did not bode well with the Opposition parties.
While Delhi Chief Minister (CM) Arvind Kejriwal accused the PM of playing politics on the "sufferings of the people," Shiv Sena's Priyanka Chaturvedi said, in reference to his 'migrant workers' barb, that they will "make this mistake 100 times over... for humanity."
What PM Modi Said
Pointing out that “the opposition has raised the issue of inflation here,” Modi said: “It would've been better if they had raised that matter while their government was in power.”
Further, he alleged that even as coronavirus is a global pandemic, "some even misused that for political gains."
Thereby, Modi went on to say:
“During the first wave of COVID-19, you (Congress) gave free train tickets to migrant workers to leave Mumbai. At the same time, the Delhi government told migrant workers to leave the city and provided them buses. As a result, COVID spread rapidly in Punjab, UP, and Uttarakhand.”
The Union Ministry of Labour and Employment had in September 2020 told Parliament that it had no data available on the number of migrant workers who had lost their lives during the nationwide lockdown that year. This had come months after the internet was flooded with visuals of migrant workers struggling to get to their homes, after having been rendered unemployed and left wanting for food, safety, and shelter due to the COVID-19 lockdown. Many were said to have perished along the way.
Subsequently, the PM accused the Congress party of practising divisive politics, and said: "Congress has become the leader of tukde-tukde gang."
He also claimed that the “Congress attempted to hurt Tamil sentiments,” before adding:
“I want to salute Tamil Nadu citizens who lined the streets for hours to pay tribute to CDS General Bipin Rawat.”
Modi further hit out at Congress leader P Chidambaram for writing articles in newspapers about the current economic state of the country.
Further he cited Jawaharlal Nehru as having said from the Red Fort that the Korean war caused inflation.
'Politics on Sufferings of the People': Opposition Decries PM's Remarks
Dubbing Modi's statement as "completely false," Delhi CM Arvind Kejriwal said:
"It does not suit the Prime Minister to do politics on the sufferings of the people."
Shiv Sena leader Priyanka Chaturvedi, on her part, observed that if the PM had watched the situation closely, “he would have seen how these migrant labourers on reaching their homes were first sprayed with sanitisers in abject humiliation.”
“Was raising voice against the sufferings a mistake? If yes will commit such mistakes 100 times over,” she added.
“When the trains requested by the states was not given to them but rather politicised by the then Rail Minister in sheer arrogance of control, should the citizens of this nation been left alone? Have some sensitivity, some humility to sufferings faced before making these comments.”Priyanka Chaturvedi
"I had said a few years ago that the real 'tukde-tukde' gang is BJP that has divided Hindus-Muslims on the basis of religion, separated people on language lines, divided North-South India... BJP is doing these divisions," Congress MP Shashi Tharoor was quoted as saying by ANI in response to PM Modi's comments on Monday.
"His entire speech was an attack on the Congress party. It was a very political speech with large portion devoted to attacking Congress... I suppose we ought to be flattered that he sees us this way," Tharoor further said.
Congress leader Priyanka Gandhi Vadra was quoted as saying by ANI, "People whom he had deserted, who had no way of returning to their homes, who were coming back on foot - did he want that nobody should help them? What did Modi ji want? What does he want? What about the big rallies he did?"