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New Delhi: As the death toll in Morbi suspension bridge collapse in Gujarat rose to 141 on Monday, the fact that the bridge had been newly renovated, yet was reportedly thrown open to the public without the requisite ‘fitness certificates’ led to opposition in Gujarat pointing fingers at government negligence.
Considering that elections to the Gujarat assembly are going to be held soon – the air is already thick with campaigns – political reactions to the collapse have taken on new meaning.
Opposition politicians, including Congress’s Digvijaya Singh, Y. Sathish Reddy of the Telangana Rashtra Samithi and Manoj Singh of the Samajwadi Party, spoke of the time when Prime Minister Narendra Modi called a 2016 flyover collapse in Kolkata an “act of fraud” and not “an act of god.”
Although #Modi in past dubbed Kolkata bridge collapse as “act of fraud”. Let us refrain from politics at the moment of such high human loss!
May god give strength to all the families, Om Shanthi 🙏 #MorbiBridge pic.twitter.com/zr4yEyiPpv
— YSR (@ysathishreddy) October 31, 2022
देश अब जानना चाह रहा है गुजरात जो दुखद घटना घटी है पुल टूटा है चुनाव के समय !
उसको Act of God कहा जाय या Act of Fraud! pic.twitter.com/PiCkl9msly
— Manoj KAKA (@ManojSinghKAKA) October 30, 2022
‘Fact-finding’ rib from TMC
West Bengal Chief Minister and Trinamool Congress chief Mamata Banerjee said she was “deeply concerned” about the tragic collapse and tweeted condolences. State transport minister Snehasish Chakraborty asked if the West Bengal BJP will be sending a “fact-finding team” to Gujarat to investigate the cause of the collapse.
Chakraborty was referring to the fact-finding team sent by BJP – in the opposition in Bengal – to Jalpaiguri district where eight people had died in a flash flood in the Mal river during immersion of Durga Puja idols.
“The BJP never loses any opportunity to disturb the West Bengal government and find fault even in natural calamities. Will they explain now if any commission was shared between the ruling party leaders and the contractors while renovating the bridge that collapsed in Gujarat,” Chakraborty asked.
State BJP spokesperson Samik Bhattacharya said TMC should desist from doing “cheap politics” over a tragedy.
“The TMC cannot deflect attention about its gross misdeeds by trying to capitalise on a tragedy,” he said.
Newly anointed Congress president Mallikarjun Kharge and party leader Rahul Gandhi appealed to all party workers in Gujarat to extend every possible assistance to rescue work.
“I appeal to the @INCGujarat workers to extend every possible assistance in rescue work & helping the wounded. My condolences and prayers are with the bereaved families,” Kharge tweeted.
Deeply saddened by the tragedy that has struck us with the collapse of the suspension bridge in Morbi, Gujarat.
I appeal to the @INCGujarat workers to extend every possible assistance in rescue work & helping the wounded. My condolences & prayers are with the bereaved families.
— Mallikarjun Kharge (@kharge) October 30, 2022
In a tweet in Hindi, Rahul Gandhi said the news was saddening.
“I extend my deepest condolences to all the bereaved families in such difficult times. I appeal to all Congress workers to extend all possible assistance to the injured persons in the accident and also help in the search of the missing people.”
गुजरात के मोरबी में हुए पुल हादसे की खबर बेहद दुःखद है। ऐसे मुश्किल समय में मैं सभी शोकाकुल परिवारों को अपनी गहरी संवेदनाएं व्यक्त करता हूं।
सभी कांग्रेस कार्यकर्ताओं से अपील करता हूं कि दुर्घटना में घायल व्यक्तियों की हर संभव सहायता करें और लापता लोगों की तलाश में मदद करें।
— Rahul Gandhi (@RahulGandhi) October 30, 2022
Some Congress leaders, including Singh as mentioned before, slammed the BJP over the incident. Randeep Surjewala termed it a “man-made tragedy.”
“Isn’t this a straight criminal conspiracy? How did the BJP government allow the bridge to be opened for public use without a ‘fitness certificate’,” Congress leader Surjewala asked.
Was this done in a hurry in a bid to garner votes before the model code of conduct comes into effect, he posed, adding “How was the work of repairing the bridge given to the company/trust? Do they have connections with the BJP?”
2. भाजपा सरकार ने “फिटनेस सर्टिफिकेट” के बग़ैर पुल को जनता के इस्तेमाल के लिये खोलने की इजाज़त कैसे दी?
क्या ये चुनाव आचार संहिता लगने से पहले आनन फ़ानन में कर वोट बटोरने के लिये किया गया?
3. पुल की मुरम्मत का काम कंपनी/ट्रस्ट को कैसे दिया गया? क्या उनका BJP से कनेक्शन है? https://t.co/riwmVq2S5p
— Randeep Singh Surjewala (@rssurjewala) October 30, 2022
Almost all top BJP leaders across states tweeted condolences.
As rescue operations were still on, Prime Minister Modi’s office announced an ex gratia of Rs 2 lakh for the families of each of those who died in the incident. Expressing sadness, Modi, in a tweet said he has spoken to Gujarat Chief Minister Bhupendra Patel and officials. “Relief and rescue operations are going on in full swing and all necessary assistance is being provided,” he said.
મોરબી ખાતે થયેલ દુર્ઘટનાથી અત્યંત દુ:ખી છું. આ અંગે ગુજરાતના મુખ્યમંત્રી શ્રી @Bhupendrapbjp તથા અન્ય અધિકારીઓ સાથે વાત કરી. રાહત અને બચાવ કામગીરી પુરઝડપે ચાલી રહી છે તથા અસરગ્રસ્તોને તમામ આવશ્યક સહાય પૂરી પાડવામાં આવી રહી છે.
— Narendra Modi (@narendramodi) October 30, 2022
At Gujarat’s Kevadia, where he paid tributes to Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel on his birth anniversary, Modi said on October 31, according to NDTV that he was experiencing rare pain.
“I am in Ekta Nagar, but my mind is with the victims of Morbi. Rarely, in my life, would I have experienced such pain. On one hand, there is a pain-riddled heart and on the other hand, there is the path to duty,” he said.
PM Shri @narendramodi ji's address at #RashtriyaEktaDiwas parade in Kevadia, Gujarat.https://t.co/3uXWXfIKvD
— Purnesh Modi (@purneshmodi) October 31, 2022
Trinamool Congress’s Saket Gokhale among others criticised Modi citing reports that had claimed that he was cancelling events in Gujarat today. “Modi doesn’t care about human lives. Elections and PR are important,” Gokhale said.
NDTV reported that Modi cancelled all his events in Gujarat after the Morbi tragedy which killed 132 people.
But Modi doesn’t care about human lives. Elections & PR are important.
And hence, Modi has decided “not to cancel” & is back campaigning in Gujarat at Kevadiya today. pic.twitter.com/makNZV2UGs
— Saket Gokhale (@SaketGokhale) October 31, 2022
Union Home Minister Amit Shah tweeted that he has spoken to the home minister of Gujarat, Harsh Sanghvi, and other officials in this matter.
“Local administration is fully engaged in relief work, National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) is also reaching the spot soon. The administration has been directed to provide immediate treatment to the injured,” Shah said.
In a statement by the Uttar Pradesh Raj Bhavan, Governor Anandiben Patel, who has been the chief minister of Gujarat, expressed her condolences. Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Adiityanath, Deputy Chief Ministers Keshav Prasad Maurya and Brajesh Pathak, and former speaker Assembly Hriday Narayan Dixit also expressed grief.
Haryana BJP chief O.P. Dhankar, along with Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan, and state BJP president V.D. Sharma have released tweets expressing sorrow.
Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal, whose Aam Aadmi Party is making an all-out effort to dislodge BJP from power in the poll-bound state, tweeted, “Very sad news coming from Gujarat. Many people are reported to have fallen into the river after a bridge collapsed in Morbi. I pray to god for everybody’s life and well-being.”
AAP MP Raghav Chadha tweeted he was “praying to God for all victims.”
Punjab Chief Minister Bhagwant Mann tweeted, “Sad news is coming from Morbi, Gujarat… major accident has occurred and because of which there is news of many people falling in the river.”
Communist Party of India MP Binoy Viswam claimed that the bridge collapse incident points to the “gross negligence” of the BJP government.
“Cable bridge collapse in Gujarat points to the gross negligence of the BJP government. Its repair was said to be done five days back. Where from the contractors got this courage? The compensation needs to be increased. A reliable enquiry should take place to unveil political involvement,” Viswam tweeted.
Cable bridge collapse in Gujarat points to the gross negligence of the BJP govt. It's repair was said to be done five days back.Where from the contractors got this courage?The compensation need to be increased.Reliable enquiry should take place to unveil political involvement.
— Binoy Viswam (@BinoyViswam1) October 30, 2022
CPI(M)’s Sitaram Yechury called for accountability to be fixed.
Deepest condolences to families of those who lost their loved ones in this tragedy.
The injured must receive medical treatment on top priority. Lives must be saved. Then, accountability must be fixed. The #Gujarat government is answerable. #MorbiBridge https://t.co/dy6lrUh92s
— Sitaram Yechury (@SitaramYechury) October 30, 2022
(With PTI inputs)