The death of a fasting sadhu in Dehradun has triggered a political storm with the Congress and the BJP blaming each other for it. The BJP tried to wash its hands of the death of Swami Nigamanand, who was protesting against mining near the Ganga, saying he was agitating against a court decision and not the Ramesh Pokhriyal government.
The Congress said the BJP government in Uttarakhand was indifferent to Nigamanand’s condition during his fast. With less than a year to go for Assembly elections in the state, the allegations and counter-allegations between the two main players are only expected to get shriller. “The Congress has no moral authority to lecture on this matter after the Raavanleela at Ramlila Maidan. The licences were given to the stone crushers under the Congress regime,” BJP spokesperson Nirmala Sitharaman told reporters here. She was retaliating to Congress’ charges that the party, which had backed Baba Ramdev’s campaign against black money , had given politics priority over genuine concern for people’s issues.
“It is unfair to say that the BJP had no concern for Swami Nigamanand because the state government was in constant touch with him,” Sitharaman said defending the party against the Congress’ charges. She said the party will campaign in the state against the Congress’ “wrong propaganda” . She also refuted Environment Minister Jairam Ramesh’s charges that state government had ignored the Centre’s warnings on illegal sand mining in the Ganga basin. The minister had claimed that he had warned the Chief Minister about the mining mafia and political patronage for mining. He had said that the Centre may have no option but to invoke Section 5 of the Environment Protection Act, which gives it power to issue directions to the state government.
Minor mining is a state subject. The Congress continued to target the BJP on the issue saying it was “not politics but murder.” Congress spokesperson Jayanthi Natarajan said “the deafening silence of the national leadership of BJP on the fast, poisoning and death of Swami Nigamananda exposes the total double standards of BJP when they talk of corruption.” The party also rejected the BJP’s charge that the 34-year-old ascetic was fasting against Congress government’s policies. “Not just Nitin Gadkari but the entire BJP requires help. It is well-known that he was fasting against illegal mining and stone quarrying near Ganga. This is nothing but part of BJP’s amnesia,” she said. Swami Nigmanand of Haridwar-based Matra Sadan died on Monday after a 114-day hunger strike in the same hospital where Baba Ramdev was admitted. Economic Times