In what may embarrass the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party, Union Health Minister Harsh Vardhan sought to downplay the Nizamuddin Markaz incident after BJP MP G.V.L. Narasimha Rao tried to raise the matter during an online interview with him. The Minister said that he feels “pain” to “raise the matter repeatedly”, though he termed the congregation as “irresponsible”.
“Look, the truth is the matter has become old. Enough debates have been conducted over it. I feel pain in raising this matter over and over again,” Harsh Vardhan responded as BJP’s Rajya Sabha MP Rao asked: “I want to ask straight – Was the Markaz of Tablighi Jamaat a take-off point for corona?”
However, the minister called the Islamic congregation “irresponsible” and violative of social distancing norms. Though he conceded: “Maybe because of that, we saw a sudden spike of Corona cases across India, at that time”, but went on to add that state governments, Union Home Minister Amit Shah and National Security Advisor Ajit Doval’s “help” ensured strict contact tracing of all those who were part of the congregation.
Interestingly, Harsh Vardhan didn’t stop there. “Now, there is no point in discussing all this because most of them were traced, quarantined and treated,” he said, adding that most of them have spent as much as 28 days in quarantine and he had gone to meet some of them in person at their quarantine facilities.
It was an interview arranged by the BJP, in line with the one done by party leader Nalin Kohli with Union Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman on Saturday. However, Rao’s insistence on resurrecting Markaz appears to be more of a political question that Harsh Vardhan downplayed, much to Rao’s surprise.
This was not the only suggestive question that Rao asked. He asked the minister, who took over as Chairman of the WHO’s 34-member Executive Board on Friday, about the past association with the world health body while adding, “In the 70s and 80s WHO wasn’t comfortable working with India.” It was a subtle dig at the Congress which ruled India back then. Rao interjected “We have made health for all possible” in-between his questions for the Union Minister.