Amid changed political equations after the Janata Dal-United walked out of the national Democratic Alliance, the Congress on Wednesday refrained from making any direct attack on the Nitish Kumar-led government in Bihar over the mid-day meal deaths of 22 school children and criticised the Bharatiya Janata Party for "playing politics" over the issue.
With the Bihar government suspecting foul play, the party said it will not allow any "conspiracy" to weaken the key midday meal scheme and a central team will be sent to investigate if the state's probe was not found satisfactory.
"The Rashtriya Janata Dal’s reaction on painful meal poisoning in Bihar is on expected lines but Bharatiya Janata Dal leaders are behaving as if they were waiting for some mishap," party general secretary Shakeel Ahmed commented on the microblogging site Twitter.
He later told mediapersons “This is not time to play politics on the tragic incident...why the BJP did not react in such a manner earlier when a number of people were killed during a stampede during Chhat festival in Patna."
Party spokesperson Raj Babbar, speaking from the All India Congress Committee podium, also appeared in agreement with the Bihar government, which suspected a conspiracy behind the tragedy.
"This is one of the most important schemes of the Central government and if there is any conspiracy to weaken it, the Central government will not be found wanting in taking steps," Babbar said.
Both Ahmed and Babbar at the same time demanded that the Bihar government should take stringent action against those responsible for the incident and ensure that it is not repeated. Babbar said that the Centre could also send a team to probe the incident if the state government's probe was not found satisfactory as "justice should be done" in this matter.
"The Centre is looking into the issue very seriously," he said.
He, however, parried questions on whether the state government is not guilty for the incident as alleged violation of norms have led to the tragedy. A senior party leader speaking on condition of anonymity said that the incident shows that there are loopholes in the implementation machinery of the state but the "loopholes must not have come up in a month or so.
"So the question is why did the BJP not raise these issues earlier when they were participating in Kumar's government."