Nationalist Congress Party chief Sharad Pawar on Monday asked who gave permission for the religious congregation of Tablighi Jamaat at Nizamuddin in New Delhi, which has emerged as one of the major coronavirus hotspots in the country.
The Maharashtra government earlier denied permission for a similar gathering, Mr Pawar pointed out in a live interaction with people on Facebook.
He also demanded a financial package from the Centre for Maharashtra in view of the state's economy being affected by the lockdown, and expressed concern over fake and misleading messages related to coronavirus circulating on social media.
The NCP chief also asked people to maintain a "scientific temperament" during the lockdown and follow social distancing to contain the spread of coronavirus.
Referring to the issue of the Nizamuddin religious event, he said two large gatherings were earlier proposed in Maharashtra-one near Mumbai and another in Solapur district.
Permission for the gathering near Mumbai was denied in advance, while police took stern action against the Solapur event (organisers) for violating the state advisory, he said.
"If Maharashtra Home Minister Anil Deshmukh and Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray can take such a decision, why the permission was not denied for a similar congregation in Delhi and who approved it?" he asked.
The former Union minister also took a dim view of the media hype over the Nizamuddin event.
"Why was it so necessary for the media to hype it? It unnecessarily targets one community in the country, he said.
So far, more than 400 COVID-19 cases and about 15 deaths in the country have been found to be linked to the religious congregation held at the Nizamuddin headquarters of the Tablighi Jamaat last month.
At least 9,000 people participated in the religious congregation in Nizamuddin last month, after which many of the attendees travelled to various parts of the country.
Mr Pawar also expressed concern over fake messages related to coronavirus being posted on social media.
"I have noticed a lot of messages are circulated on WhatsApp groups. I think four out of five such messages are fake and misleading," he said.
Some people are trying to confuse citizens by circulating such messages, he added.
On challenges before Maharashtra, Mr Pawar said the Centre needs to provide a financial aid to the state.
"It is imperative for the Centre to come up with some package as the lockdown has deeply affected the state''s economy of the state. I have already spoken to noted economist Vijay Kelkar to come up with some solutions and recommendations. My suggestion have been accepted by Chief Minister Thackeray," the 79-year-old Maratha strongman said.
He said the financial package should include assistance for farmers as well. Mr Pawar also appealed to people to maintain a "scientific temperament" during the lockdown.
"The country would celebrate Dr Babasaheb Ambedkar's birth anniversary on April 14, but the lockdown is effective till April 15. Instead of coming out on streets, people should light a candle in their homes to pay their respect to the Constitution", he said.
The ongoing battle against coronavirus could be won only if people stay at home and follow the social distancing guidelines, he added.