Child deaths in Gorakhpur triggers political spat between Yogi and Rahul

The child deaths in Gorakhpur triggered a political spat on Saturday as chief minister Yogi Adityanath described visiting leaders to the hospital as picnickers, prompting Congress vice president Rahul Gandhi to counter that the tragedy was “government-made”.

india Updated: Aug 20, 2017 01:10 IST
Abdul Jadid
Abdul Jadid
Hindustan Times, Gorakhpur
Gorakhpur,Gorakhpur children death,Yogi Adityanath
Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi after meeting the family members of BRD Medical College tragedy victims at Baghaghada village in Gorakhpur on Saturday. Gorakhpur India, on Saturday, August 19, 2017. (HT Photo)

The child deaths in Gorakhpur triggered a political spat on Saturday as chief minister Yogi Adityanath described visiting leaders to the hospital as picnickers, prompting Congress vice president Rahul Gandhi to counter that the tragedy was “government-made”.

Gandhi met families of children who died at Baba Raghav Das Medical College, the largest government hospital in five-term parliamentarian Adityanath’s constituency before he became the Uttar Pradesh chief minister this March.

He was supposed to visit the hospital, which is in the news as more than 60 kids died since August 9 amid allegations of a shortage in oxygen supplementation after a private company withdrew supply of cylinders over a payment dispute.

But he didn’t go after Adityanath’s remarks.

“I called off my visit … but I realised that CM Yogi’s visit there had caused a lot of trouble to the ailing kids. So I called off my visit in the interest of patients and children,” Gandhi said.

Also, he said the deaths were a government-made tragedy resulting from an oxygen shortage.

The BJP-led government in Uttar Pradesh has denied the deaths were caused by an oxygen cut, saying Japanese encephalitis and paediatric diseases were responsible.

The government has instituted an inquiry and several opposition leaders have visited the hospital since the tragedy surfaced.

Adityanath, who is also the head priest of Gorakhnath mutt in Gorakhpur, has criticized his rivals for politicising the hospital deaths.

“Yuvraj in Delhi and Shahzada in Lucknow can’t understand the importance of cleanliness drive launched by the government,” the chief minister said, launching a sanitation drive in the town.

“For them, Gorakhpur is a picnic spot. I think we should not give permission to anyone to make a picnic trip to Gorakhpur.”

Yuvraj and Shahzada, both meaning prince, are terms used by opponents to allude to Gandhi and Samajwadi Party leader Akhilesh Yadav, who is chief minister Adityanath’s predecessor.

For his part, the Congress vice president took potshots at Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

“Modiji talks about a new India. Is this the new India? We don’t want his new India. We want the India where people take their kids to hospitals and come out happy,” he said.

“Yogiji stop the cover-up,” he added.

Among the families that Gandhi met during his visit was Brahmdev Yadav, resident of village on the outskirts of Gorakhpur. He lost his twins born on August 1.

“Rahulji assured all possible help, including efforts to get me a job,” he said.

Senior Congress leader Ghulam Nabi Azad, who was part of Gandhi’s team, accused Adityanath of doing nothing for the hospital despite being a five-time MP for Gorakhpur.

The chief minister blamed the previous Samajwadi government in UP for the tragedy.

“Had they joined the cleanliness drive the deaths from vector and waterborne diseases could have been checked,” he said.

Adityanath said he has been fighting for encephalitis-affected children for 20 years.

First Published: Aug 20, 2017 01:08 IST