Ahmedabad, Sep 21 (PTI) The ruling BJP on Monday said members of Tablighi Jamaat were responsible for the initial spread of coronavirus in Gujarat, evoking a sharp rebuke from the Congress which blamed 'Namaste Trump' event held here in February for the spurt in infections.
Both the parties traded barbs during a discussion on a resolution introduced by treasury benches in the Legislative Assembly to thank COVID warriors.
'Members of Tablighi Jamaat were largely responsible for spreading coronavirus in Gujarat initially because they did not voluntarily disclose their visit (to the Nizamuddin Markaz in Delhi in March this year),' said deputy Chief Minister Nitin Patel.
He said this act of 'non-disclosure' by Tablighis was responsible for the spread of coronavirus in Ahmedabad, Vadodara and Rajkot.
'No one can deny this fact,' Patel said.
Echoing Patel, Minister of State for Home Pradeepsinh Jadeja said the police tracked down those Jamaatis who had returned to Gujarat with COVID-19 infection, 'which was largely responsible for spreading the virus initially'.
Leader of Opposition Paresh Dhanani hit back, saying it was 'Tughlaki leaders and not Tablighis' who were actually responsible for the largescale infection.
'The infection reached at this level because the government failed to take timely steps. Gathering of 1 lakh persons (for the Namaste Trump event) was responsible for this spread. A specific class of people is being targeted by the government to hide their own failures,' the Congress leader said.
Senior MLA and Gujarat Congress president Amit Chavda said when the state was supposed to prepare itself to tackle the pandemic, the BJP government wasted time on preparations to organise the public event, which was attended by US President Donald Trump and Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
'We firmly believe that 'Namaste Trump' event of February 24 was responsible for the spread of coronavirus because many foreigners had also came to Ahmedabad then,' said Chavda.
Congress MLA from Ahmedabad, Gyasuddin Shaikh, said members of the Jamaat voluntarily approached authorities for testing after landing in Ahmedabad.
Chief Minister Vijay Rupani said no COVID-19 case was reported in Gujarat for more than two weeks after the Trump event.
'While US President Donald Trump landed in Gujarat on February 24, the first coronavirus case in the state was reported only on March 18 in Rajkot,' Rupani told the House.
'If you (Chavda) knew that the event would spread the virus afterwards, then why you never said anything about it prior to February 24? asked the CM.
After the heated debate, the resolution praising corona warriors was passed unanimously.
Gujarat's tally of COVID-19 cases stood at 1,24,767 as on September 21. PTI PJT PD NSK NSK