New Delhi: Hardeep Singh Puri, the Union minister for civil aviation and housing and urban affairs, has come under attack from Right-wing individuals and organisations for arranging a tocilizumab injection for journalist Vinod Dua’s wife Padmavati (better known as ‘Chinna’). The Dua couple are battling Covid-19 at a Gurugram hospital’s ICU.
Puri’s Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), meanwhile, has come to his defence, saying that the minister cannot be targeted for showing humanity.
The requirement for the injection was brought to Puri’s notice by the Duas’ daughter, actor-comedienne Mallika Dua. She wrote that her mother urgently needed tocilizumab and tagged Congress leader Deepender Hooda, who replied, asking for details. Soon after, Hardeep Singh Puri replied to Dua’s tweet, saying he has arranged the injection, and listed a number for her to call on.
In a later tweet, Mallika thanked the minister for arranging the injection, which is when several people took to Twitter to target Puri. He later deleted the reply to Mallika’s tweet, while she suspended her Twitter account.
‘Thousands of lesser privileged people suffering too’
Pro-BJP author and columnist Shefali Vaidya tweeted that the Union minister was “acting like a supplier for one of his buddies, while thousands of other less privileged people are gasping for breath in hospitals”. Vaidya asked what was so special about Vinod Dua and his daughter that Puri helped them even when they did not tag him.
Every citizen deserves to have access to medicines. The point is not that. The point is about a union minister acting like a supplier for one of his buddies, while thousands of other less privileged people are gasping for breath in hospitals. @HardeepSPuri
— Shefali Vaidya. (@ShefVaidya) May 17, 2021
Retired IPS officer M. Nageswara Rao, who briefly headed the CBI and writes a regular column in the RSS’ mouthpiece Organiser, said he wished BJP ministers had shown similar concerns for the victims of political violence in West Bengal.
If there is even 10% of that concern among BJP leaders & Ministers for supporters/voters of their own BJP who are victims of #BengalViolence, things would have been entirely different !https://t.co/cVwLnP8n2U
— M. Nageswara Rao IPS(R) (@MNageswarRaoIPS) May 17, 2021
Right-wing publication OpIndia also carried an article titled: “Vinod Dua’s daughter, who wanted all ‘bhakts’ dead, receives help from a ‘bhakt’ MP while her mother needed critical COVID medicines”. The article also pointed out that Mallika had not reached out to any BJP leader, but had tagged actor Sonu Sood and former Congress MP Hooda.
A Twitter user named Madhur, with one lakh followers, said the problem occurs when ministers in power ignore the common citizens and “rush to help privileged elite people like Mallika for their validation”.
I have no problem with any top minister of BJP helping Mallika Dua who abuses BJP 24*7.
The problem occurs when these ministers in Power ignore the common citizens of our country and rush to help privileged elite people like Mallika for their validation.
This is the difference.
— Madhur (@ThePlacardGuy) May 16, 2021
Another user Ankit Jain, who mentions “BJP supporter” in his Twitter bio, said it was “better to be a Mallika Dua than to be a BJP supporter”.
I think it is better to be a Mallika dua than to be a BJP supporter. Unka kuch hona jaana nahi hai injections jo black ho rahe hai personally bina maange deliver kiye jaate hain
— अंकित जैन (@indiantweeter) May 16, 2021
Since then, several old videos of both Vinod and Mallika Dua have been circulated, in which they are seen and heard expressing anti-BJP views. In one snippet, Mallika is heard telling filmmaker Karan Johar in a chat show that “all bhakts and IT cell people should just die”.
Shefali Vaidya also shared a video of Vinod Dua lying on a hospital bed from March this year, in which he can be seen commenting on PM Narendra Modi’s remark about having participated in Bangladesh’s freedom struggle, and hinting he would be back with criticism of the government and the PM soon.
Later, she put out another tweet pointing out that a handbook published by the National Disaster Management Agency is co-authored by Vinod and ‘Chinna’ Dua’s older daughter Bakul Dua, a clinical psychologist.
Another piece of good news! National Disaster Management Agency publishes a handbook written by Bakul Dua, eldest daughter of the same Vinod Dua who curses @narendramodi from his hospital bed and whose younger daughter Mallika Dua wishes death on ‘Bhakts’ https://t.co/UUu1W4vnbb
— Shefali Vaidya. (@ShefVaidya) May 17, 2021
Meanwhile, senior journalist and a prominent anti-BJP voice Dilip Mandal claimed Puri’s help to Vinod Dua had nothing to do with ideology or party, but caste. “It is a Khatri helping another Khatri,” he tweeted.
Puri helping Dua has nothing to do with class, religion, party or ideology.
It’s the caste stupid!
It’s a Khatri helping another Khatri. Caste in India transcends and supersede every other identities.
You people are acting as if you don’t know! pic.twitter.com/ixHVEaQiyc
— Dilip Mandal (@Profdilipmandal) May 17, 2021
‘This is the time to help’: BJP responds to criticism
BJP spokesperson R.P. Singh told ThePrint that in a situation as grave as the current wave of the Covid-19 pandemic, it is everyone’s duty to help the needy.
“We also help those whose views are different. Helping during the current Covid crisis is humanity, and cabinet ministers can’t be targeted for such an effort. I have also donated 20 concentrators to a gurdwara. I have not asked about their religion and ideology. This is the time to help,” Singh said.
Another party leader, who worked with Puri when he was a civil servant, said he was never somebody who would differentiate on the basis of ideology before helping others. “Puri has known Vinod Dua for a long time, and they are old friends. So, when Vinod Dua’s daughter asked for help, he provided,” this leader, who wished to remain anonymous, claimed.
Another BJP leader, who is not part of the Modi government, said that under the party’s new culture, any help is provided secretly since a lot of Right-wing activists don’t like help being given to ideological opponents. “Politics has changed after 2014; this should be kept in mind,” he said.
Sources in the BJP told ThePrint that the social media attack on Hardeep Puri is not an isolated case. “Right-wing followers are anxious and angry, not only due to the help given by the powerful to opponents, but because they say there are many cases when BJP leaders have not helped (their) own people or shown generosity at this crisis time,” a party source said.
Across states, especially Uttar Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh, BJP MLAs and workers have complained about the “callous attitude” of ministers and officers in facilitating help during the second wave of Covid-19.
(Edited by Shreyas Sharma)
Why news media is in crisis & How you can fix it
India needs free, fair, non-hyphenated and questioning journalism even more as it faces multiple crises.
But the news media is in a crisis of its own. There have been brutal layoffs and pay-cuts. The best of journalism is shrinking, yielding to crude prime-time spectacle.
ThePrint has the finest young reporters, columnists and editors working for it. Sustaining journalism of this quality needs smart and thinking people like you to pay for it. Whether you live in India or overseas, you can do it here.