Modi rescued 15,000 pilgrims. Really?

NEW DELHI: A political slugfest has erupted over Narendra Modi's visit to the ravaged hill of Uttarakhand where devastating floods have killed hundreds and left many stranded.

It all began with a bizarre claim by Modi's PR machine - that around 15,000 Gujrati pilgrims were rescued in a day by the chief minister's team during his visit to Uttarakhand.

But experts called it an hoax as it was practically impossible to rescue 15,000 people in a short span of time even by the army who are trained who are trained specifically to deal with such situations.

Today, Shiv Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray lauded Maharashtra Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan and blasted Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi for their respective roles in the ongoing rescue operations in disaster-hit Uttarakhand.

In an editorial in party mouthpiece "Saamana" Tuesday, Thackeray heaped praise on Chavan for adopting a broad-minded approach, and ridiculed Modi for his parochial attitude in dealing with the fallout of the disaster.

"Chavan has shown Maharashtra's large-heartedness and magnanimity in the face of such a massive disaster, not only for the people of this state stranded in Uttarakhand, but for victims from across the country," Thackeray said.

Targetting the Gujarat chief minister, the Shiv Sena president said that now Modi has been given a national role to play by the Bharatiya Janata Party and he should not speak in narrow terms for only Gujaratis.

"Most of the rescue works are being carried out by the Indian Army and the Indo-Tibetan Border Police. They don't discriminate on the basis of the victims' state of origin or religion, but rescue them as human beings," Thackeray pointed out.

"It would be better if Modi's propagandists exercise restraint in future," Thackeray said.

Earlier, Union I&B minister Manish Tewari told The Times of India, 'Now in all this, if somebody wants to become Rambo and claims that he alone in a span of two days during a trip of disaster tourism brought out 15,000 people, I am afraid for the lack of a better word, it just reflects rank opportunism and sheer desperation to try and politicize and even milk a tragedy for political reasons.'