Hours after Rahul Gandhi sought to distance his party from the developments in Maharashtra which has the highest number of coronavirus cases in the country, Railway Minister Piyush Goyal hit out at him, saying that the partners of the ruling coalition in the state should sort out their internal differences and send migrant workers by trains.
Mr Goyal referred to Mr Gandhi's remarks that his party was not key decision-maker in the state during a digital press conference and recalled how during UPA regime Congress had cited "compulsions of coalition politics" as scams tumbled out.
He also said that people of Maharashtra will never forget the "unethical coalition". The state accounts for over one-third COVID-19 cases of the country.
"Even during UPA time when scams were unfolding, they said these are compulsions of coalition politics. This (Rahul Gandhi's remarks) is a similar statement. Where is your Common Minimum Programme and what are your 12 ministers doing in the government? Maharashtra people will never forgive this unethical coalition," Mr Goyal told ANI.
He expressed disappointment over the collapse of administration in the state and how his heart goes out to people there.
Mr Goyal took potshots at Congress president Sonia Gandhi when asked about her accusations that migrant workers had been asked to pay for their train journey.
"Sonia Gandhi had too spread fake news to keep herself relevant. Her own state government where she is in coalition in Maharashtra charged (money) from migrants. On the contrary, BJP ruled states gave fare and in some states return money to migrants on arrival. Sonia Gandhi should have collected factually correct information first. I advise that she should take care of Congress-run states first," Mr Goyal stated.
There has been speculation about rift in coalition partners and Mr Gandhi's remarks did not help matters.
BJP leader Narayan Rane has met the state governor asking him to impose President's rule in the state and blaming the worsening situation of the state due to Covid-19 spread on the coalition government.
The minister Maharashtra government's own alliance partners "are exposing their failures".
"It is time they sorted out their internal differences. Whether it is Shiv Sena, Congress or NCP, they are all partners in that government, they should take responsibility and send migrants by these trains," Goyal told ANI.
He said neither is Maharashtra cancelling trains not taking proper care of migrants.
Urging the Congress not to politicise the issue, Goyal said: "Every state is getting the trains as many as they are asking. Please do not politicise, please ask as many trains as you can handle. Sending and receiving state, please support each other. Please help us to serve the migrants. We are after all only the service provider. The main work is between the sending and receiving states to resolve the differences among them,"
Goyal said that out of 145 trains that Maharashtra government demanded, 41 were going to West Bengal as per the list provided by Maharashtra.
"West Bengal Chief Secretary and officials are in continuous touch with Maharashtra government telling them that because of cyclone they can't accept 41 trains, send only two. Maharashtra government is not willing to tell us which trains they want to be postponed, cancelled or rescheduled," he said
"Maharashtra should sort out the issues with West Bengal. Neither is West Bengal in a position to take them (migrant labourers) nor is Maharashtra cancelling the departure. The only sufferers will be the migrants," he added.
Goyal further said that 65 trains have been cancelled as Maharashtra cannot get passengers.
"What joy they get in giving wrong information and asking us 145 trains and not having a passenger. I wish Maharashtra will be considerate and care for migrants. Kerala should have contacted the Maharashtra government. Kerala has gone overboard and made e-pass which no state would be able to do. I wonder if they care for their migrants," he said.
Lauding the cooperation of Uttar Pradesh and Bihar governments, Goyal said, "Till yesterday, 3,256 Shramik special trains completed their journey in which around 1,500 trains went to UP and around 1200 trains for Bihar. The state governments are co-operating with us. They are taking care of the migrant workers in their home states. They are ensuring quarantine, giving ration and maintenance allowance to migrants," he said.
Special trains are being arranged to send stranded migrant workers to their home states due to the coronavirus-induced lockdown.
(Except for the headline, this story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is published from a syndicated feed.)