Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan and state Congress president Kamal Nath clashed on Monday following registration of an FIR against the latter for allegedly creating panic over the COVID-19 pandemic through his remarks.
Mr Chouhan asked Congress president Sonia Gandhi to take action against Mr Nath for his "Indian variant" and other remarks related to the pandemic.
On the other hand, Mr Nath said an FIR cannot suppress his voice and asserted he will keep fighting for people and raise issues of public interest.
On Sunday, the Crime Branch of the Bhopal Police had filed an FIR against Mr Nath following a complaint by BJP leaders who alleged the former chief minister has been creating panic over the coronavirus pandemic through his remarks.
"Sonia Gandhi should take action against Kamal Nath ji and if she agrees with his views, then let the country know so that the public can be aware about the Congress stand," Mr Chouhan said in a tweet on Monday.
In another tweet, Mr Chouhan said the government is trying to control the COVID-19 infection with cooperation of people and the affected families, while the Congress is playing with public sentiments.
The Chief Minister further said, "I want to ask Madam Sonia Gandhi, whether she agrees with Mr Nath's statement of setting (public sentiments) afire?... Does Madam Sonia Gandhi agree with Kamal Nath's statement of ''Indian Corona''? If Kamal Nath is saying this on his own, then why are you (Sonia Gandhi) watching it as Dhritarashtra (a key figure in the Mahabharat who was blind)?"
Chouhan was apparently referring to a video circulated by the BJP in which Nath is purportedly heard saying to a person "this is the time to set (sentiments) on fire" during a discussion on problems being faced by farmers. The Congress, however, claimed the video was doctored.
On the other hand, a defiant Nath, in a statement issued to the media on Monday, said, "The Shivraj government wants me to keep quiet, not to raise public''s voice, not to fight for their rights but I will not sit
quiet. I will keep fighting for public interest till the last breath of my life, an FIR cannot suppress me."
The Leader of Opposition alleged the BJP government in the state has left people at the mercy of God at the time of the coronavirus crisis.
Nath said the BJP government is hiding data on COVID-19 deaths and alleged people were dying in absence of hospital beds, shortage of medical oxygen and essential medicines, including Remdesivir, a claim repeatedly rejected by the state administration.
"Thousands of people have died in the state due to carelessness and negligence of the state government," the Congress leader said, adding despite being alerted, the BJP administration did not arrange for medical oxygen and adequate hospital beds.
"When people are in trouble, the medical system is in tatters, people are dying, the Shivraj government wants me to keep quiet," he said.
The Madhya Pradesh Congress president said the state government was trying to divert people's attention from real issues by filing FIR against him.
He demanded that people who have died of COVID-19 be given a compensation of Rs 5 lakh instead of Rs 1 lakh announced earlier.
On Sunday, Nath was charged under section 188 (disobedience to order duly issued by a public servant) of the IPC and section 54 (making or circulating a false alarm or warning as to disaster or its severity or magnitude, leading to panic) of the National Disaster Management Act 2005 in the FIR registered at the Crime Branch Station in Bhopal, an official said.
The BJP leaders, in their complaint, alleged that Mr Nath had said at a press conference at Ujjain on Saturday said that, "Corona, which has spread in the world, is being known as the Indian variant of the virus."
Mr Nath's statement is creating confusion and defaming the country internationally, the complaint said.
The former Union minister has disobeyed the World Health Organization (WHO) guidelines to stem COVID-19 and his act amounts to sedition under the IPC, the complainants said.
Besides, the complaint said Mr Nath's "false allegations" that the government was hiding real COVID-19 deaths amount to creating fear and the act falls under the category of criminal offence.
(Except for the headline, this story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is published from a syndicated feed.)