“Namaste, I am a former minister from Madhya Pradesh. Thank you so much for taking care of the kids… Don’t worry you will be back home soon” – one would not be mistaken for assuming that a BJP leader’s video call would involve someone trying to flee war-hit Ukraine.
However, the Congress has alleged that the BJP leader Ranjana Bhagel’s call was a blooper from a promotional campaign and the person on the other end of the line whom she thanked was the station house officer of a police station in Gandhwani of Dhar district who was using the phone of a local journalist Hariom Malviya, also seen on video.
As Indian thousands of students remain stranded in several parts of Ukraine and their families anxiously wait at home, BJP leaders are more concerned about the public relations campaign surrounding the central government’s ‘Operation Ganga’, the opposition party has alleged.
छात्र अभी भी यूक्रेन में फंसे हैं इन सबके मुद्दा चुनावों तक पहुंच गया नेता अभी से #ऑपरेशनगंगा की प्रशंसा करने में लगे हैं @BJP4India की पूर्व कैबिनेट मंत्री रंजना बघेल का एक वीडियो वायरल हो रहा है जिसमें वीडियो कॉल में किसी को यूक्रेन से वापस लाने को आश्वस्त करती दिख रही हैं pic.twitter.com/bjhZEMBR1T
— Anurag Dwary (@Anurag_Dwary) March 3, 2022
Responding to the allegations and the video going viral on social media, Ranjana Bhagel has denied any pretence.
She said she has been in constant touch with Union Minister Jyotiraditya Scindia for the evacuation of students from the Dhar and Badwani districts of Madhya Pradesh and the phone numbers of two students from Dhar were also passed on to him.
“One of these two students was named Hariom Choel. I was talking to him and giving him the assurances and he told me that there were security people who had helped him and he wanted me to talk to them as well. But before I could do that, the phone got disconnected and when we tried again the call went to some other Hariom,” she said in her defence.
“A person from the Congress IT cell who has a history of indulging in illegal activities was behind making the video viral,” she said.
But Congress spokesperson Narendra Saluja said, “It is a matter of great shame that BJP is doing politics on this. The person whom former minister Ranjana Baghel is talking to is a local journalist. The person she is thanking for taking care of the students is a policeman posted in Manawar. Look at the way they are trying to fool the public. BJP is involved in spreading such lies. They do politics by fooling people.”
Hariom Malviya confirmed that he did receive a video call from the former minister on his mobile but claimed that nothing was audible. “I later spoke to Didi who told me that she wanted to connect to some other Hariom who is stranded in war-torn Ukraine.”
According to the state government, 225 of the 454 students from Madhya Pradesh who were stranded in Ukraine have been brought back while efforts are on to bring back the rest.