The Uttar Pradesh government on Tuesday said the list of 1,000 buses offered by the Congress to ferry migrant workers contained registration numbers of two-wheelers and cars, fuelling a war of words between the two sides.
The Congress, however, challenged the UP government to conduct physical verification of the buses it has brought to the state's border to take UP's stranded workers home.
Uttar Pradesh Deputy Chief Minister Keshav Prasad Maurya accused the party of coming up with a scam. "The Congress has got trapped in its net of deceit, he tweeted in Hindi.
The UP government's claim reignited the row over the offer made on May 16 by Congress general secretary Priyanka Gandhi Vadra to provide 1,000 buses for migrant workers.
The Congress initially claimed that the state's BJP government was ignoring the offer with Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath even refusing to give an appointment to a party delegation seeking a meeting.
Even while accusing the Congress of playing politics over the plight of workers heading home after the coronavirus lockdown, the UP government on Monday formally accepted the offer.
It asked the Congress to submit a list of the buses, and its drivers and conductors.
But that was not the end of the row.
In an email received by Priyanka Gandhi's private secretary at 11.40 pm Monday, the Uttar Pradesh government asked the opposition party to send the buses to Lucknow by 10 am on Tuesday, according to the Congress.
The aide wrote back to the UP government saying that sending empty buses to Lucknow was inhuman and the product of an anti-poor mindset when thousands of workers are gathered at UP's borders.
"This demand of your government seems politically motivated. It does not appear that your government wants to help our labourer brothers and sisters who are facing a disaster," the letter in Hindi said.
UP's Additional Chief Secretary (Home & Information) Awanish Awasthi responded to the Congress letter, agreeing to take charge of the buses at the border itself.
"As per your letter dated May 19, you have expressed your inability to provide buses in Lucknow and want to provide them in Ghaziabad and Noida," he wrote.
He asked 500 of the buses to be stationed at Kaushambi and Sahibabad bus stands, where the Ghaziabad district magistrate will take charge of them.
He said the other 500 buses should be parked at the ground near the Expo Mart in Gautam Buddh Nagar and handed over to the district magistrate there.
Awasthi said directions have been issued to the district magistrates to make use of the buses immediately after checking the permits, fitness, insurance and driving licences of the crew.
Later, the state government said the list of 1,000 buses contained registration number of other vehicles, reigniting the row over buses.
"In the list of buses provided by the Congress, there are motorcycles, three-wheelers, an ambulance and private cars, Mrityunjay Kumar, media advisor to the chief minister, said.
He listed out the registration numbers of an ambulance, a car and four three-wheelers.
He said the details were retrieved through mParivahan, an app that allows people instant access to such information.
A UP Congress spokesperson challenged the claim.
"There are 1,000 buses. If the UP Government has any doubts about them, then they can conduct a physical verification of the vehicles at the state's border," he said.
Deputy Chief Minister Keshav Prasad Maurya accused the Congress of running another scam. "The bus ghotaala' (bus scam) now is the latest addition to the Bofors, 2G, Coalgate and Commonwealth Games (scams), he tweeted in Hindi.
Congress is making fun of labourers by providing details of autorickshaws and motorcycles in the name of buses. Misleading people by telling lies is in the DNA of the Congress party," he said.