Prime Minister Narendra Modi's message on Friday, urging people to light candle or diya on April 5 to display India's collective resolve to defeat coronavirus evoked sharp reactions from opposition parties with the Congress dubbing it as 'just a feel-good moment curated by India's photo-op prime minister' while the Bharatiya Janata Party asked its workers to spread Modi's appeal among the masses.
Asserting that the way in which the entire country has fought the battle against coronavirus unitedly under Modi's leadership is laudable, BJP president J P Nadda asked party workers to spread the prime minister's message to light lamps or mobile phone torches at 9pm on Sunday among the masses.
In a video message of over 11 minutes, Modi said, "This Sunday, on the 5th of April, we must all together, challenge the darkness spread by the corona crisis, introducing it to the power of light.
"We must awaken the superpower of 130 crore Indians...On the 5th of April, on Sunday, I want 9 minutes from all you, at 9 pm, turn off all the lights in your homes, stand at your doors or in you balconies, and light candles or diyas, torches or mobile flashlights for 9 minutes."
Criticising Modi, Congress leader Shashi Tharoor tweeted, 'Listened to the Pradhan Showman. Nothing about how to ease people's pain, their burdens, their financial anxieties. No vision of the future or sharing the issues he is weighing in deciding about the post-lockdown.
'Just a feel-good moment curated by India's Photo-Op Prime Minister!' while his party colleague P Chidambaram said 'symbolism' is important but serious thought to ideas and measures is equally important.
A generous livelihood support package for the poor and announcement of steps to arrest the economic slide were expected, but the people were disappointed on both counts, Chidambaram said.
Later the opposition party also held a press conference to say that the country was dejected as all were expecting answers from him on critical questions on the fight against coronavirus, steps to revive the economy and on helping all those affected due to the lockdown.
Raising questions on the low testing pace for coronavirus, Congress spokesperson Pawan Khera said the country was expecting answers from the prime minister during his address on the issues of shortage of personal protection equipment and on helping the poor and migrant labourers who were without food and money.
Addressing the media through video conferencing, Khera said while the country will support the prime minister in switching off lights and lighting candles, just as they did while clapping for doctors and paramedics, but some questions need to be asked and answered.
However, Nadda and other senior BJP leaders, including Union ministers welcomed Modi's message.
This exercise (April 5) will help spread the light of our collective confidence which will defeat the darkness of the coronavirus crisis, Nadda said.
While Union Home Minister Amit Shah asked people to support Modi's initiative, Union minister Prakash Javadekar tweeted, 'We welcome this unique step of PM which will boost the morale of the people.'
Let's awaken the spirit of togetherness in the fight against the coronavirus, Javadekar added.
Tharoor also claimed that 'this is no accident: the PM spoke on Ram Navami at 9 am for 9 mins, asked us to light diyas & candles on 5/4 at 9 pm for 9 mins. He is invoking all the auspicious elements Hinduism associates with number 9. Back to Ram Bharose?! COVID19 must be more serious than we thought!'
Modi's message also evoked sharp reactions on Twitter.
A host of Bollywood celebrities endorsed Modi's appeal to the countrymen and urged them to wholeheartedly carry out the task as one unit.
Describing the pre-recorded video statement of the prime minister as 'quite disappointing', Left parties asked the government to focus on 'scientific measures' to fight the disease.
'The entire nation is geared up united and showed its strength to fight and contain the deadly coronavirus. The prime minister says that 'to defeat this darkness, we have to show the light in all directions'. Days and nights are natural process in the universe as much as the light and darkness,' it said in a statement.
The party said people need scientific measures such as vaccines, medicines and other immediate health projects to fight the deadly virus.
'Many medical facilities have to be created all over the country. Special efforts should be taken to provide adequate support to doctors, nurses and other paramedical staff who are on duty,' it said.