New Delhi: Interim Congress chief Sonia Gandhi Friday said the Rajasthan government’s success in tackling Covid-19 in Bhilwara was the result of a “timely” warning from her son, former party president Rahul Gandhi, sources told ThePrint.
Last month, Bhilwara in Rajasthan, governed by a Congress-led coalition administration under veteran party leader Ashok Gehlot, had emerged as one of the hotspots of the Covid-19 outbreak, registering 27 positive cases and two deaths.
But the strategy adopted by the Rajasthan government and the district administration has ensured that Bhilwara has not registered any new Covid-19 cases in a week, while 13 patients who had tested positive have recovered so far.
Sonia, sources said, made the statement at a meeting with state Congress chiefs, where she reviewed the steps taken by them to tackle the Covid-19 pandemic. The meeting lasted over three hours.
“Sonia Gandhiji mentioned how Rahul Gandhi had, in February itself, warned the government, but no one paid any heed… According to her, had the (central) government taken cognisance of that, we would have been in a better situation today,” said a senior Congress leader who was part of the meeting.
Congress leader Rahul Gandhi had first tweeted about coronavirus on 12 February, saying the government wasn’t taking the threat seriously.
According to the sources, Sonia also noted how the response of Chhattisgarh, another Congress-governed state under Bhupesh Baghel, to Covid-19 was being praised. Chhattisgarh has reported 10 cases of coronavirus so far, of which nine have reportedly recovered and none has died.
“It is because Rahul Gandhi had issued a warning about coronavirus in February itself that states like Rajasthan got into action fast. They ensured there were enough PPE (personal protective equipment) kits,” Sonia was quoted as having said at the video conference.
“The fact that over 22 lakh people were screened in Bhilwara is phenomenal and this could only be achieved as the state paid heed to Rahul Gandhi’s warning and planned accordingly by putting in place adequate isolation wards, quarantine centres, ventilators, masks, sanitisers etc,” she said.
“Today, Bhilwara has become a model district that everyone is trying to emulate, this is the kind of work we have to carry on.”
‘More testing needed’
At the meeting, most state chiefs emphasised the need for more testing, sources told ThePrint.
“In Uttar Pradesh, according to government data, there are more than 427 cases so far and four deaths have been reported. But it seems the numbers are not correct as more deaths have been reported in the media,” Uttar Pradesh Congress chief Ajay Kumar Lallu told ThePrint.
“The government needs to increase testing. Only 167 tests are being done every day for a state as big as Uttar Pradesh. We told Soniaji that we have provided rations to over 5.5 lakh people and are carrying out all our responsibilities under the guidance of Priyankaji (Congress general secretary and Sonia’s daughter Priyanka Gandhi),” he added.
Delhi Congress chief Anil Chaudhary said Sonia had laid special emphasis on providing safety gear to the frontline health workers who were at the gravest risk of infection.
“All the state chiefs highlighted the fact that testing is not adequate, and the government needs to work on it. At the same time, the relief work that has been announced by the Modi government is not reaching the beneficiaries,” said a second senior leader who didn’t wish to be named.
“It was also suggested that hospitals should be designated for Covid-19 patients. Also, Indians who are stuck outside the country should be given assurances through the embassies that the government is with them. Their well-being should also be taken into consideration.”
Several leaders also alleged that Congress workers were facing difficulties conducting relief work in states where the party wasn’t in office.
“Soniaji asked all the chiefs to take up the issue with the chief ministers and she will also raise the issue with PM Modi. She asked everyone to carry out the role of a responsible opposition during such testing times,” said a third leader.
This is an updated version of the report