With Karnataka witnessing a sharp spike in COVID-19 cases, its Health Minister B Sriramulu has said only God can save the state, insisting that public cooperation was key to controlling the spread of the pandemic.
The minister's statement in Chitradurga on Wednesday came in response to the opposition Congress's charge of government failure to tackle coronavirus spread, but he later claimed his remarks were 'misinterpreted' by a section of the media.
It led to a war of words between state Congress state chief D K Shivakumar and Sriramulu on Thursday with the former claiming that the B S Yediyurappa led BJP government has no moral right to stay in power and the latter asking the opposition not to create panic.
"Tell me whose hand it is (to control the disease). Only God has to save us all. Awareness among people is the only way. In such a situation, the Congress leaders have stooped to the lowest level of politics. It doesn't suit anybody," Sriramulu told reporters on Wednesday.
He was replying to Opposition charges, especially by Shivakumar and former chief minister Siddaramaiah, who alleged lack of coordination and differences between ministers, mainly between him (Sriramulu) and Medical Education Minister Dr K Sudhakar, led to the government's "failure" to control the coronavirus spread.
The health minister said the disease, spreading across the country and warranting extreme caution in the next two months, does not differentiate between ruling and opposition members.
He dismissed as "far from the truth" the opposition charges that the government was 'careless' and 'irresponsibility' of ministers or differences between them was leading to a spike in the infections.
However, Sriramulu later sought to clarify that the intention behind his statement on Wednesday was that till the time a vaccine was developed to tackle the contagion, only God has to save all and people's cooperation was important.
"I had said that besides people's cooperation, God should also protect us but some media interpreted that Sriramulu has become helpless with respect to coronavirus spread," he said in a late night video message on Wednesday.
"My intention behind saying so was that till the time a vaccine comes, it is only God who can save us.It should not be wrongly interpreted," he added.
Reacting to it, Shivakumar tweeted, "Statements by Ministers Sriramulu and Dr K Sudhakar are leading to panic among people. B S Yediyurappa govt has no moral right to remain in power when they can't manage Cvoid and have left everything to God. Let the CM of Karnataka and his cabinet resign and president rule be imposed."
Joining the issue again, Sriramulu tweeted on Thursday, "This is a clarification regarding my words that have been misinterpreted and misunderstood."
"People need to be aware and cautious to avoid the spread of the virus. This plays a vital role in controlling the pandemic. If we fail at this crucial step the situation can get complicated. And if things go worse, then only God can save us. These words were used out of caution. There's no need create panic in the public," Sriramulu said.
Karnataka has been witnessing a spurt in COVID-19 cases and on Thursday reported the highest single day spike of 4,169 infections as its tally rose to 51,422 with 1,032 fatalities.
The total cases include 19,729 discharges and 30,655 active cases, according to the Health department.
A week-long lockdown has been enforced in some districts, including Bengaluru Urban and Bengaluru Rural, from Tuesday night in view of these places recording more cases.