BJP chief JP Nadda on Monday targeted the opposition, accusing it of using "state machinery" to silence dissent in the states it rules. In a series of tweets, he said opposition should "adhere to political arguments when questioned on their failing" and assured the BJP workers that the party stands behind them. While the BJP chief did not mention any state or Chief Minister, his tweets were seen as targeting the government of Bengal's Mamata Banerjee, who took on the Centre last week during the video conference with Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
Coronavirus has been the latest flashpoint between the state and the Centre and over the last weeks, there has been an intense face-off between the two.
"In the last few days, it has been observed that in opposition ruled states, the state machinery has been used unfairly to target BJP workers and independent voices on social media, critical of the local government's handling of Covid. In a vibrant democracy, this is unacceptable," the first of Mr Nadda's tweets read.
Another tweet read: "Culture of debate and criticism of those in public life is an integral part of our democratic process but using state agencies at your disposal to silence dissent is unbecoming of those in power. Opposition should adhere to political arguments, when questioned on their failing."
I want to assure every BJP worker, supporter & well wisher, who is being targeted by those scared of their unprincipled politics getting exposed, that the BJP stands with you. We will defend your right to free speech and resist these tyrannical forces in the democratic framework.— Jagat Prakash Nadda (@JPNadda) May 18, 2020
In March, Bengal came under the Centre's scanner following allegations of lockdown violation and fudged figures of coronavirus.
After the visit of a Central team to check the ground situation, the Centre told the state that it has the highest rate of COVID-19 fatalities, low rate of testing and worrying instances of attacks on frontline workers battling the disease.
Earlier this month, Union health minster Harsh Vardhan named the state as a potential hotspot of the disease in the country and the BJP alleged that Ms Banerjee will have to pay the price of the mismanagement during the elections.
At the video conference with PM Modi last week, Ms Banerjee accused the Centre of playing politics over the issue, "This is not the time to play politics. Nobody ever asks our opinion… Don't bulldoze the federal structure," sources quoted her as saying at the meeting, called to discuss a phased exit from the lockdown, the migrants' issue and the economic situation.
Earlier this month, a senior BJP leader in north Bengal was arrested allegedly for flouting social distancing norms during lockdown. Sources said BJP workers have also complained to Mr Nada that governments of Kerala, Maharashtra and Bengal were harassing them.
Last week, Congress president Sonia Gandhi had also accused the BJP of spreading 'the virus of communal prejudice and hatred' in the middle of a pandemic.