Rishikesh: On Monday morning, in a well-orchestrated photo-op, Congress President Sonia Gandhi flagged off over 100 trucks loaded with food supplies, medicines and other materials meant for Uttarakhand, where thousands of people were stranded in flash floods.
Three days later, the trucks are parked at Rishikesh in Uttarakhand. They remain fully loaded.
Congress leaders admitted they had no idea of where the trucks were. "I don't have any information but I know there are youth Congress members in Rudraprayag. Thanks for this information, I am not coordinating but will pass this on to those members," said party spokesperson Sandeep Dikshit.
The drivers allegedly said that after reaching the state capital of Dehradun, they were asked to drive higher in the mountains to an area named Srinagar.
But they are stranded en route with fuel running out. The drivers say nobody from the
party or the government has contacted them with either assistance or directions. They claim they have no money to pay for meals or fuel. "Should we start selling these items, then," asked one of them.
The enormity of both the disaster and the military's rescue operation in Uttarakhand has not inhibited parties from searching for political advantage.
The trucks were sent by the Congress after a newspaper report said BJP leader Narendra Modi had pulled "a Rambo act" by flying into Uttarakhand with bureaucrats and evacuating 15,000 tourists from Gujarat, a report the BJP has dismissed as exaggerated.
Mr Gandhi arrived in Uttarakhand on Monday even as Home Minister Sushil Kumar Shinde said that visits by VVIPs distract attention from rescue operations. The Congress has said that Mr Gandhi is present "as a citizen" and is not using state resources to travel to different parts of Uttarakhand.