The question whether the Centre has a fisheries ministry or just a department within a ministry, continued to be the focus of a verbal war between senior BJP leaders and Congress MP Rahul Gandhi in the election campaigns in poll-bound states.
This time, it was the turn of Union Home Minister Amit Shah, who hit out at the Congress scion for promising the fishing community in Puducherry and Kerala, where Assembly elections will be conducted in the next few months, to lobby for a separate fisheries ministry in New Delhi, to exclusively cater to their needs.
Shah, who is currently in Puducherry ahead of the Assembly election in the Union Territory (UT) to be held on April 6, lashed out at Gandhi for being ignorant about the formation of a “fisheries department” two years ago.
And, added that ‘Rahul bhaiya (brother)’ was clueless about this newly established ministry because he was “on leave”. He brought up this topic in his address stating that Rahul Gandhi had recently questioned why the Modi government has not created a separate department for fishermen.
However, he said, that Narendra Modiji had formed a separate ministry for fishermen. “Rahul bhaiya (brother)… you were on leave, so you are not aware…,” declared Shah, probably referring to Gandhi’s trips abroad, and his absence in Parliament on crucial days. His trips abroad often give the BJP government grist to attack the Congress leader.
Driving home the point about Gandhi’s lack of knowledge about the existence of a fisheries department despite serving four terms in the Lok Sabha and leading a party at that, he asked the people of Puducherry: “Can that party take care of the welfare of Puducherry?”
The Congress MP from Wayanad had made this remark at Puducherry and later on in Kerala, while campaigning for his party. Though he was fact-checked by the Centre about this by different BJP leaders, including Giriraj Singh, Union Minister of Animal Husbandry, Diary Farming and Fisheries, Gandhi dug in his heels and continued to make this demand for a separate fisheries ministry.
However, on Friday, (February 26) Gandhi also clarified that the fishermen of Tamil Nadu, Kerala, Puducherry and other coastal states – whom he called “farmers of the sea” – needed a “ministry of fisheries” and “not just a department”. Indeed, the government website too states that the Department of Fisheries, is “one of the two Departments under the Ministry of Fisheries, Animal Husbandry and Dairying”.
BJP leaders continue to rake up the alleged fisheries ministry “gaffe” by Gandhi. Prime Minister Narendra Modi too, on Thursday, said he was “shocked” to hear that Gandhi wasn’t aware of a “fisheries ministry” established by his government in 2019.
Meanwhile, Amit Shah said in his campaigning that he was confident that the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance would form the new Puducherry government. The results of the Puducherry Assembly are scheduled to be declared on May 2.
The Congress-led government in the Union Territory suddenly fell after a spate of resignations by MLAs from the ruling party. And, following a floor test in the Assembly, in which the V Narayanaswamy’s Congress government fell, the UT is under President’s Rule currently.
However, the former CM Narayanasamy has accused the BJP of poaching his MLAs and conspiring with former Lieutenant Governor Kiran Bedi to oust him, like they have done in other states.