New Delhi: The Congress and Uttar Pradesh government have been involved in a war of words over the issue of buses for migrants.

Moving beyond who is right and who is wrong in the ongoing tussle over '1,000 buses', the fact is that the Congress to a great extent has been successful in building a political campaign on the plight of the migrant labourers. All this while the key opposition parties, SP and BSP have been completely missing from the scene.

Down and out since the 2019 general election, the Congress has stirred to life again to pressure the Bharatiya Janata Party to relieve the massive human distress caused by the lockdown to contain the spread of the coronavirus.

We have been bringing you reports on the problems of migrant workers stranded in cities, tens of thousands of whom have chosen to walk hundreds of kilometres back to their home villages. Many have also met a tragic end before reaching their destination.

Also watch: Shramik special train ferries 1,552 stranded migrants from Tamil Nadu to Uttar Pradesh

On May 16, Congress general secretary Priyanka Gandhi Vadra wrote to Uttar Pradesh chief minister Yogi Adityanath, making a series of suggestions about steps required to help daily wage labourers, farmers and poor people. The letter also expressed the desire on part of the Congress party to volunteer in relief and assistance operations.

Over the period of the lockdown, compared to BSP supremo Mayawati and SP chief Akhilesh Yadav, Priyanka was clearly more active, shooting off at least four letters to the UP chief minister, all expressing the desire to be part of the relief operations. The climax of the intervention came with Priyanka writing for providing 1,000 buses to bring migrant labourers back to the state with the expenses to be borne by her party.

In an attempt to serve the migrant labourers by joining hands with the opposition during a crisis situation like the coronavirus pandemic, a day later, the state government responded to her stating that the proposal has been accepted and asked her to submit the details of buses and drivers. Priyanka’s office on Monday night mailed the list of 1,000 buses. However, the party was left embarrassed after the state government on Tuesday afternoon claimed it contained registration numbers of auto rickshaws, bikes, cars and trucks, a charge denied by the Congress.

The UP 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.

Also read: Bikes, autos among Congress's list of buses to Uttar Pradesh government to help migrants

The Congress, however, rejected the claim, challenging Yogi Adityanath’s government to conduct a “physical verification” of the buses.

Unwilling to concede the blunder despite the Congress landing in an embarrassing situation, Priyanka appeared adamant on pinning down the chief minister and asked Yogi Adityanath to paste BJP flags on buses but allow them to ply on UP roads.

A Rajasthan Police official said that the buses the Congress had arranged to ferry Uttar Pradesh migrants back home have been forced to turn back at the Rajasthan-UP border.

Training her guns at the UP government, Priyanka said the CM had accepted Congress’s offer and sought a list of buses and drivers, but later asked questions which did not allow the issue to move further. “While we are stuck in this political drama and you are issuing strange comments and raising different issues, we could have transported at least 92,000 people home,” she said.

Priyanka was given the responsibility of Uttar Pradesh by her brother and former Congress president Rahul Gandhi ahead of the Lok Sabha elections last year. The Congress general secretary has already made her intention clear that she was eyeing the Uttar Pradesh Assembly elections scheduled in 2022 and is therefore working on the lines to revive the party that has no base in the most populous and politically crucial state.

Meanwhile, slamming Congress' hypocrisy over migrant 'bus' politics, finance minister Nirmala Sitharaman, on Wednesday, stated that when UP had received 300 trains, Congress-ruled Chhatisgarh had received 7 trains, in an interview to ANI.

She added that while the population of the two states is not comparable, the population of migrants in Jharkhand and Chhattisgarh put together equal UP. Calling for unity in fighting COVID-19, she said that she did not wish to politicise the issue as 'all migrants were Indians'.