New Delhi/Dehradun: Thousands of people remain stranded in Uttarakhand, eight days after the hilly state was pounded by rain. While the Army and Air Force are leading a heroic and massive effort in the state, politicians appear to be searching for approval ratings in a national tragedy. (Read: Don't visit as it hampers relief, says Home Minister Sushil Kumar Shinde to VIPs)
The Congress is in power in Uttarakhand. The government today said it would not allow "any state government unilaterally taking rescue efforts which includes deploying choppers and other means."
That was an unsubtle reference to Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi who recently swooshed into Uttarakhand with a team of officials who chartered planes and luxury buses to evacuate 15,000 Gujaratis, according to media reports.
The Congress was quick to criticise Mr Modi for what some newspapers have described as his "Rambo act." It reflected, Congress minister Manish Tewari said, "rank opportunism and sheer desperation to try and politicise and even milk tragedy for political gains." Mr Modi's opponents have also criticised him for singling out Gujaratis for help.
This morning, Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi flew to the capital of Uttarakhand to take stock of rescue efforts. Before that, he stood by his mother, Congress president Sonia Gandhi, as she flagged off a convoy of trucks carrying clothes, medicines, packaged food and candles for flood-ravaged Uttarakhand.
Mr Gandhi had been attacked by the BJP for not rushing back to India when Uttarakhand turned into a national disaster. BJP spokesperson Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi taunted the ruling party saying, "The Congress itself is a national disaster. When the country is in such need, then the yuvraj (crown prince) of the country (Rahul Gandhi) was abroad." The general elections due next year are seen by many as a face-off between Mr Gandhi and Mr Modi, though neither has been named as his party's candidate for prime minister.
Mr Modi has further aggravated the Congress, which governs Uttarakhand by tweeting he had offered to help repair the damage around the famous Kedarnath temple, located in the epicentre of the tragedy.