The Gujarat Congress on Monday claimed that the ‘Namaste Trump’ event held in February in Ahmedabad was responsible for more than 800 coronavirus deaths in the state, PTI reported. However, the Bharatiya Janata Party termed the allegations “baseless” and asked the party to refrain from indulging in politics during a pandemic.

Gujarat is one of the worst-affected states in the country with 14,460 Covid-19 cases and 888 deaths as of Tuesday morning. Of these, Ahmedabad alone accounts for 10,590 cases and 722 deaths.

On February 24, United States President Donald Trump kicked off his first official visit to India by addressing a rally of more than one lakh people in Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s home state of Gujarat. The event was titled ‘Namaste Trump’, and the two leaders also participated in a road show in Ahmedabad, which saw thousands of people in attendance.

On January 30, the World Health Organization had declared Covid-19 to be a public health emergency, and it was declared a pandemic on March 11. Gujarat reported its first cases of coronavirus on March 20, when a man from Rajkot and a woman from Surat tested positive.

State Congress President Amit Chavda claimed that the ‘Namaste Trump’ event was the “biggest culprit” in the spread of coronavirus in Gujarat. He said that his party will soon file a petition in the Gujarat High Court, seeking an independent probe through a Special Investigation Team in the organisation of the event. “Though the World Health Organization had issued a warning about coronavirus in January itself, the state’s BJP government went ahead in organising the ‘Namaste Trump’ event that has resulted in the death of over 800 persons due to the pandemic,” Chavda claimed.

He said that on January 22, the state health department had issued a notification about the pandemic, asking district offices to take precautionary measures to fight coronavirus. “Why the government could not procure PPE [personal protective equipment] kits and ventilators when they knew about the risk well in advance?” Chavda asked. “It shows their criminal negligence.”

However, the BJP said that the Congress should refrain from indulging in politics during these difficult times. Gujarat BJP spokesperson Bharat Pandya said the people of the state were aware that there is no connection between the ‘Namaste Trump’ event and the coronavirus spread. “The media, citing figures, had showed how and where coronavirus spread after Tablighi Jamaat’s Delhi event,” he added.

He said that the Opposition Congress is making baseless allegations about the Trump event to “counter the media [reports] and the BJP”.

Thousands of Indians and hundreds of foreigners had attended a Tablighi Jamaat conference held in Delhi’s Nizamuddin area in March. It later emerged as a coronavirus hotspot. After the event, many participants returned home across the country while others travelled to meetings, raising concerns about the scale of the potential spread of infection. In April, the Centre estimated that more than a third of the country’s cases at that time were connected to the group. Many members were placed in quarantine centres.

Earlier on May 6, Chavda had blamed the ‘Namaste Trump’ event for the spread of coronavirus in the state. “It [WHO] had asked all the countries to refrain from organising large gatherings,” Chavda had said. “Despite such warning, ‘Namaste Trump’ was planned for political gains and permission was also granted by the Gujarat government.”

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