Chandigarh: Political battles have erupted in Punjab and Haryana over pictures of state chief ministers on relief material being distributed to those impacted by the coronavirus epidemic.
Punjab Chief Minister Captain Amarinder Singh, who has been lauded for his handling of the crisis, is now facing flak for having his photograph on dry ration bags that the state government is distributing to the poor in the state.
These bags, containing 10 kg of atta, two kg each of dal and sugar, are to be distributed to at least 10 lakh daily wagers and unorganised labour most impacted by the epidemic. The door-to-door distribution of the bags began on Wednesday.
The dry ration being distributed by the Punjab government is over and above what the poor will get as part of the Prime Minister Garib Kalyan Yojana announced by the Union Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman last week.
But the opposition led by the Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD), which had been largely supportive of the CM’s efforts in dealing with the crisis, is now ridiculing Amarinder for having his photographs on the relief material, terming it as him “playing politics amid a grave epidemic”.
In a video statement issued late Wednesday evening, Dr Daljit Singh Cheema, the SAD general secretary, said his party was cooperating with the government but slammed the chief minister.
“It is unfortunate that the chief minister has brought politics into this grave situation. His pictures are on relief material bags and sanitisers. There will be several opportunities when the CM can put his pictures on various scheme benefits but to use it at this stage is in bad taste,” he said.
“Instead of hurrying the distribution of the relief material, his government is first wasting time on getting his pictures printed on the bags.”
Amarinder is also in the firing line for his pictures printed on sanitiser bottles that have been distributed free of cost. These bottles have been mass produced by distilleries (normally producing alcohol) for the government.
“First the bags and then the sanitisers. It is clear that the priority of the government is not to provide relief and help to people but to play politics,” said Cheema.
While there is no word from the chief minister over the opposition taking him on for his pictures on these bags, when he came to power in 2017 he had ordered the removal of former chief minister and SAD supremo Prakash Singh Badal’s pictures on state-run ambulances.
Amarinder had also changed the look and quality of the “atta dal cards” issued to lakhs of beneficiaries of the free dry ration scheme launched by Badal in 2012. The cards had carried Badal’s picture along with that of the then food and civil supplies minister Adaish Pratap Singh Kairon.
Similar story in Haryana
The idea of the chief minister’s photographs on sanitisers have caused a stir in neighbouring Haryana as well. The sanitiser bottles distributed free of cost in Haryana not only have pictures of Chief MInister Manohar Lal Khattar but also of his deputy Dushyant Chautala.
Just like in Punjab, Haryana too had asked distilleries to mass produce sanitisers and supply them to the government. Dushyant Chautala is the excise minister under whom the distilleries fall.
Taking on the chief minister over his pictures, Congress spokesperson Randeep Singh Surjewala tweeted his criticism, saying the public had lost faith in the political set-up.
“Respected Khattarji and Dushyantji, can you not see anything except politics and self promotion even in the middle of the Coronavirus epidemic? The reason that the public has lost faith in political set up is because anguish is used to play politics using government money. Please get this rectified,” he tweeted
आदरणीय खट्टर जी-दुष्यंत जी,
क्या कोरोना वाइरस के क़हर में आपको सस्ती राजनीति व स्वयंभू प्रचार से आगे कुछ नज़र नही आता?
त्रासदी देखी और सरकारी पैसे से भुनाना शुरू। इसीलिए जनता का विश्वास राजनीतिक तंत्र से उठ रहा है।
विनम्र अनुरोध की इसे दुरुस्त करें। pic.twitter.com/PqIo0oAUwQ
— Randeep Singh Surjewala (@rssurjewala) April 1, 2020
Congress Rajya Sabha member Deepender Hooda too tweeted condemnation.
“It seems that for the BJP-JJP combine the state is not in the middle of an epidemic but an election rally. Using a disease to highlight your own face is cruel politics. Now will these pictures also be stuck on masks? This bottle will remind the people of the sensitivity of the BJP-JJP for years. The time is not to do politics but serve,” he tweeted.
BJP-JJP को लग रहा है कि देश मे बीमारी नही,उनकी चुनावी रैली चल रही है।बीमारी का इस्तेमाल अपने चेहरे चमकाने के लिए करना राजनीति का क्रूर चेहरा है।Sanitiser के बाद क्या मास्क पर नेता चिपकेंगे?ये बोतल बरसो तक लोगो को BJP-JJP की संवेदनहीनता याद दिलाएगी।
समय राजनीति का नही सेवा का है। pic.twitter.com/8JMMAgCTzI
— Deepender S Hooda (@DeependerSHooda) April 1, 2020
In response, Khattar tweeted that he wasn’t aware of these photographs.
“It is not appropriate to discuss these things when the entire society is united in fighting such a major crisis. I don’t approve of such things,” he tweeted.
मेरी फोटो लगे हुए हैण्ड सैनिटाइजर का मामला मेरी जानकारी में आया है। कोरोना वायरस जैसी आपदा के समय में जब समाज एकजुट होकर लड़ रहा है तब ऐसे विषयों पर चर्चा करने का कोई औचित्य नहीं हैं। इस प्रकार के कार्य को मैं उचित नहीं समझता।
सतर्क रहें, सुरक्षित रहें!
— Manohar Lal (@mlkhattar) April 1, 2020
Close aides of Dushyant Chautala also got into damage-control mode. His media advisor Deepkamal Saharan put out a series of tweets, criticising Amarinder Singh for having his photograph on sanitiser bottles alleging that it was the Punjab CM who started this trend.
He also tweeted that the company that produced sanitisers for Punjab also manufactured them for Haryana with the pictures of the CM and the deputy CM even though the company was never told to put the pictures. He added that these pictures will be removed forthwith.
सभी बड़े घोटालों और बहुत सी गलत परंपराओं की तरह Sanitizer बोतल पर फोटो लगाना भी कांग्रेसियों की देन है।
कंपनी ने पहले पंजाब के लिए #sanitizers बनाए, फिर design बदल कर #Haryana के लिए बना दिए।
हरियाणा के किसी नेता/अफसर ने फोटो लगाने को नहीं कहा।
फोटो तुरंत हटाने के आदेश जारी। pic.twitter.com/OnXMI7X3xA
— Deepkamal Saharan (@DKSaharan) April 1, 2020
वैसे भी ऐसी परंम्परायें कॉंग्रेसी शुरू करते हैं।
ये sanitizer हज़ारों की संख्या में उन क्षेत्रों में भी बांटे जा रहे हैं, जहां से ये कांग्रेसी सांसद, विधायक बनते रहे। सरकार का ध्यान लोगों की सेहत पर है, और इन्हें अब भी राजनीति सूझ रही है। https://t.co/lSPJKOzz5s pic.twitter.com/eSX9QmP0Gw
— Deepkamal Saharan (@DKSaharan) April 1, 2020