The COVID-19 cases have gone up exponentially in Madhya Pradesh as the previous Congress government did not get the Tablighi Jamaat members tested and was busy organising a film awards event in the initial days of the outbreak, a top BJP leader, who is convenor of state's health task force, said.
Madhya Pradesh BJP President VD Sharma also said that Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan did not immediately expand his council of ministers because the "top-most priority" for the administration was to tackle the pandemic and not "waste time" on any other issue.
Former chief minister and Congress leader Kamal Nath had attacked the BJP over the issue, saying it is fooling the people of the state which does not have a cabinet or even a health minister amid the pandemic.
Hitting back, Sharma, who has been made the convenor of the state's health task force, said the Kamal Nath government had allowed people from Tablighi Jamaat to enter the state and did not get them checked for COVID-19. He said they will investigate this and also if any Rohingyas were allowed to enter the state along with the Jamaat members.
A religious congregation in Delhi of the Jamaat in which thousands of people from India and abroad had participated has emerged as one of the biggest coronavirus hotspots. Many of these people have tested positive for coronavirus.
"I am making an open charge that due to the fear of the Tablighi Jamaat people you (previous Congress government) helped them unauthorisedly. You gave them entry (into the state) and allowed them to live and did not subject them to any kind of medical inspection," Sharma, who has been made the convenor of the state's health task force, said.
The previous Congress government had to quit on March 20 after losing majority in the Assembly. Subsequently, Chouhan took charge as the chief minister but is yet to expand his ministry.
Sharma, the MP from Khajuraho, said Chouhan took things in his hands and decided to prioritise on fighting coronavirus rather than expanding his cabinet.
Madhya Pradesh has 1,360 positive cases and 69 deaths, one of the highest in the country, as per latest data. Out of this, Indore alone has recorded 892 cases and 47 deaths.
Apart from the Tablighi Jamaat activists, Sharma alleged, the other reason for the higher number of COVID-19 cases in the central Indian state was that the entire administrative and police machinery of Indore had been directed to ensure smooth conduct of the International Indian Film Academy Awards (IIFA) event by the former chief minister and the then chief secretary, SR Mohanty.
"This was the biggest mistake...so IIFA was priority and not coronavirus. The former CM did nothing. It was on his behest that the administration of Indore gave priority to the conduct of the event," Sharma alleged.
Indore has been identified as one of the worst coronavirus affected cities in the country.
"Till yesterday, Indore had more than 707 positive coronavirus cases and almost 600 are linked to the Tablighi Jamaat," Sharma alleged.
The film awards event that was supposed to take place in March in the city with an edition in Bhopal too. "The entire administration and police of Indore were engaged with full vigour to organise IIFA. This was on directions of the former CM and the ex-chief secretary...the administration's priority was not to tackle coronavirus," the BJP leader said.
He said the unfortunate result of this is not only being faced by Indore but by entire Madhya Pradesh. "I want to ask Kamal Nath and his government what were you doing then? Tell me one action you took in this context?" he asked. Sharma said similar situation has occurred in capital Bhopal too.
"In Bhopal too, you saw what happened. The doctors were attacked, the police personnel were attacked. What is this? This unauthorised help that Congress administration gave (to Jamaat)... the result was that entire mankind and the life of people of Madhya Pradesh is at risk," he claimed, adding, "we will investigate this".
He alleged that Nath government did not create any COVID-19 related medical facility in the state, nor did it take any action to create any team to take on the challenge posed by the pandemic that has claimed thousands of lives and infected over 13 lakh people globally.
"In fact, we suspect that even Rohingya refugees could have entered into Bhopal and Indore with the aid of Tablighi Jamaat members," he said, adding the task force decided on Friday that this should be investigated.
The BJP leader said the situation in the state was "under control" now. "There was no medical facility... there were only two testing labs but we have taken it to nine now" and as "more people are being detected and tested" the numbers are going up, he said.
Asked as to how a number of officials in the health and police administration were infected in state capital Bhopal, Sharma said this happened as they were "vigorously" working to trace such suspects and patients.
"We are proud of them that they staked their lives to save others. They are like heroes. They are the people who were doing their service with dedication and when they were not helped we saw cases were increasing," Sharma said.
"They are our 'corona warriors' and hence we have started honouring them in the public and giving salary incentives," he said.
Nearly 89 personnel of the Madhya Pradesh health department, including four IAS officers and a few doctors, who were in the COVID-19 front-line have tested positive for coronavirus in the state
Sharma said the 10-member state COVID-19 task force, headed by Chouhan, has asked the administrative officials to keep looking for suspected cases. Strict action will be taken against those who do not cooperate in this drive, he said.
Asked about a news report that a number of doctors sent by the state government have failed to join duty, Sharma said the task force is confident that people who consider service as their duty and mission will go.
"We are in touch with many other doctors and experts who will go to help the Indore administration. They need more hands as they have been working continuously for so many days now," he said.
Talking about the way forward in Madhya Pradesh, Sharma said the approach is multi-pronged. "We have got in touch with the public representatives in every district of the state and are asking them to ensure that essential supplies of food, medical facilities for non-COVID-19 patients run smoothly.
"We have asked our booth level workers in 63,000 such units to step up distribution of food, dry rations and run community kitchens.
"So far, we have provided food to 1.5 crore people and over 35 lakh masks have been distributed in the state with the help of our party workers, government machinery and social service organisations," Sharma said.
Over 1.25 lakh people of the state who are out at present have contacted the control room and "the chief minister has begun depositing Rs 1,000 in their bank accounts", he said.