West Bengal BJP president Dilip Ghosh on Tuesday appeared to downplay the global coronavirus scare, asserting that thousands of people at temples across India drink water with their hands and also consume 'prasad', but "nothing happens" as they have the blessings of god.
Ghosh said the humankind, which have conquered the world and reached the moon, are now scared of coming out of their homes.
"Mothers and sisters travelled a long distance after fasting to offer puja. This is our culture and we see it everywhere in India. This is the identity of our country and we are progressing like this," he said, after taking part in a puja at Egra in Purba Medinipur district.
"The entire world is scared of the coronavirus and millions are staying at home. Those who have conquered the whole world, reached the moon... they are scared of coming out of their homes," Ghosh added.
The BJP leader's comments come at a time when the virus, which first emerged in China last December, has spread to more than 100 countries, with over 4,000 deaths worldwide and over 1,10,000 confirmed cases.
"And look what is happening here... Thousands of people have come out to offer puja. They are drinking water and using the same hands to have the prasad... Nothing will happen, they have the blessings of the almighty," Ghosh said. Ghosh said that in India, more people die due to vector-borne diseases.
"...a few people have been infected (by novel coronavirus), but there are more number of deaths in the country because of malaria and dengue... We are not scared," the BJP MP from Midnapore said.
According to the Union Health Ministry, a total of 50 confirmed cases of COVID-19 have been reported in the country till now. Reports from states, however, put the figure at 59. Reacting to Ghosh's comments, TMC secretary general Partha Chatterjee said he should realise the importance of holding the post of state president of a party like the BJP.
"Everyday, Dilip babu is becoming a laughing stock. He must realise that he is the state president and MP of a political party," Chatterjee said.