Political slugfest over Morbi tragedy: Opposition charges, viral videos, conspiracy theories
The political discourse over the Morbi cable bridge collapse, that claimed over 140 lives and left many injured, is getting aggressive as the days go by. The fact that the announcement of dates for assembly elections in Gujarat is expected any time now, opposition parties are trying to put the state BJP government in the dock while a section is hinting at conspiracy citing video evidence.
The state government is facing some uncomfortable questions over the award of the contract for the maintenance of the century-old bridge to a company that does not have any experience in the fields of construction and infrastructure.
AAP hits out hard
Arvind Kejriwal, the chief of Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) which has been aggressively trying to make its presence felt in Gujarat, while seeking ‘immediate resignation’ of Chief Minister Bhupendra Patel, alleged that the tragedy was a result of corruption referring to reports on how a company that makes clocks was given the charge of renovating the suspension bridge.
“Why was a company that makes clocks given the tender of a bridge? This means he had links with the party (BJP). The FIR in the case mentions neither the company nor its owners,” the Delhi chief minister said. He said there are allegations that the ruling party had received a huge donation from the company’s owners, and said such charges need to be probed
In New Delhi, Manish Sisodia, Kejriwal’s number two in AAP, charged: “This is not an accident. This is the killing of people by the BJP’s corruption.” What was the hurry that the bridge was opened for the public in five months while the (maintenance) work was to be completed in eight months, he asked the BJP.
The Delhi education minister also asked the BJP to reveal how much donation it received from the watchmaker company after getting it awarded the work contract.
Old statement comes to haunt PM
Reports that the “newly-renovated bridge was thrown open without a fitness certificates” led to the Opposition pointing fingers at the BJP government, accusing it of negligence. PM Modi’s statement in 2016 calling the collapse of a flyover in Kolkata “act of fraud” and not “an act of God” too came to haunt the BJP.
“Modi ji, is the Morbi bridge accident an Act of God or Act of Fraud,” Congress leader Digvijaya Singh questioned. In a later tweet, he said: “Of course Modi ji should know as CM Gujarat he built up coterie of favoured Civil Contractors who are now taking contracts all over India in BJP ruled States and in GOI?”
Congress MP Randeep Singh Surjewala termed the incident a man-made tragedy and called the BJP government in Gujarat “guilty”. “This is not a natural accident, it is a man-made tragedy. The BJP government of Gujarat is directly guilty of this heinous crime,” Surjewala said, also attacking PM Modi and Gujarat CM over the compensation announced for the deceased kin. “PM and CM cannot evade their responsibility by announcing Rs 2 lakh compensation for the lives of Gujarati brothers and sisters,” he said.
Shiv Sena MP Priyanka Chaturvedi posted, “Reminds me of the Act of God and Act of fraud speech given by the Prime Minister when a bridge in WB collapsed,” while adding “Not sharing the (Bengal) video because of his sheer insensitivity.”
Hospital makeover attracts criticism
The makeover of the hospital in Morbi where the injured were being treated before the Prime Minister’s visit to the town too came under opposition fire. The Congress termed it a “tragedy event” and said, “They have no shame, so many people have died, and they are busy in event management.”
The AAP said, “Repair work is on to ensure there is nothing amiss in the Prime Minister’s photoshoot tomorrow.”
The conspiracy theories
However, the discourse became murky with some people saying the collapse was a result of a conspiracy. A video — allegedly shot minutes before the accident — went viral. It apparently showed some people at the centre of the bridge trying to shake it. The video proved, some social media users charged, that the accident was a sabotage. But others questioned the reliability of the video, pointing out that it was an old one.
Some users, including Delhi BJP leader Kapil Mishra, accused the AAP of planning the conspiracy by sharing screenshots of certain pro-AAP tweets that claimed that there would be a “dhamaka” in Gujarat on October 30.
The cake for advocating the conspiracy theory was though taken by The Kashmir Files director Vivek Agnihotri. Posting the controversial old video, he tweeted, “There is no doubt now that Morbi bridge collapse is a sabotage by urban naxals as a planned strategy. They have been destroying schools, hospitals, roads, rail tracks & bridges. You must know Arvind Kejriwal’s Aam Aadmi Party gives protection to urban naxals.”
With elections to the Gujarat Assembly expected soon and the BJP, Congress and the AAP campaigning extensively in the state, the political slugfest is only going to intensify further.