The bitter back-and-forth over the question of a “fisheries ministry” continued Sunday, with Home Minister Amit Shah the latest BJP leader to take on Congress MP Rahul Gandhi over last week’s remark about fishermen needing a separate ministry to attend to their needs.
In Puducherry to campaign for the BJP ahead of the April 6 Assembly election, Mr Shah took a swipe at Mr Gandhi, mocking him for not knowing that the centre had started a “fisheries department” two years ago, and for being unaware of this because he was “on leave”.
“Rahul Gandhi said here a few days ago… why has the Modi government not created a separate department for fishermen. Narendra Modiji has already worked to form a separate ministry for fishermen. Rahul bhaiya (brother)… you were on leave, so you are not aware…,” Mr Shah said.
The “on leave” swipe was a reference to Mr Gandhi’s trips abroad, which provide the BJP with ammunition to criticise the Congress leader.
“I want to ask people of Puducherry… The party whose leader has been in Lok Sabha for four terms does not know fisheries department started in the country two years ago. Can that party take care of the welfare of Puducherry?” he asked.
Mr Gandhi’s comments – made while campaigning for his party – have since been pounced on at regular intervals by BJP leaders looking to establish a foothold in the union territory.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi, on Thursday, declared himself “shocked” that Mr Gandhi wasn’t aware of a “fisheries ministry” having been set up by his government in 2019.
He was referring to the Department of Fisheries, which is “one of the two Departments under the Ministry of Fisheries, Animal Husbandry and Dairying”, according to its website.
The Union Minister in-charge, Giriraj Singh, also tweeted a reminder to Mr Gandhi – in Italian.
Caro Raul (@RahulGandhi),
Non esiste un Ministero della pesca separato in Italia. Viene sotto Ministero delle Politiche Agricole e Forestali. https://t.co/Lv9x3r8ozK
— Shandilya Giriraj Singh (@girirajsinghbjp) February 17, 2021
On Friday Rahul Gandhi clarified his comment, stressing that the fishermen of Tamil Nadu, Kerala, Puducherry and other coastal states – whom he called “farmers of the sea” – needed a “ministry of fisheries” and “not just a department”.
Fisherfolk need an independent and dedicated ministry of fisheries, not just a department within a ministry.
PS- “Hum do Humare do” obviously hurt bad.
— Rahul Gandhi (@RahulGandhi) February 25, 2021
Apart from targeting Mr Gandhi over the fisheries ministry row, Amit Shah also declared that the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA, which is in power at the centre) would win April’s election and form the new Puducherry government.
The union territory is presently under President’s Rule, after Chief Ministry V Naryanasamy’s Congress government lost its majority on Monday.
An incensed Mr Narayanasamy has since claimed that the BJP poached his MLAs and, with former Lieutenant Governor Kiran Bedi, conspired to bring down his government.
The results of the Puducherry Assembly election will be declared May 2.
With input from ANI