Several official functions were organised on September 17, the day Prime Minister Narendra Modi turned 72.
He first released eight cheetahs from Namibia in Madhya Pradesh’s Kuno-Palpur national park and later went to address the Women self-help group conference and ‘Kaushal Dikshant Samaroh’ (Skill Convocation Ceremony) of Industrial Training Institutes (ITIs) before launching National Logistics Policy at Vigyan Bhawan in Delhi.
While addressing the gathering at the launch of the National Logistics Policy, Modi mocked the Congress and the first PM Jawaharlal Nehru. Without taking their names, he said, “The nation is changing. Once upon a time we would release doves, but now we release cheetahs.”
@narendramodi @nitin_gadkari @PiyushGoyal @dpradhanbjp @JM_Scindia @sarbanandsonwal @AshwiniVaishnaw “Earlier we fl… https://t.co/uqtcRMcRqi
— DD News (@DDNewslive) 1663419992000
He was obviously referring to Nehru releasing a dove as a symbol of peace on November 18, 1954 – four days after the first PM’s birthday – during a huge demonstration to celebrate his 65th anniversary at the New Delhi stadium.
Pt. Jawaharlal Nehru releases a dove on his 65th birthday in Delhi, 1954. https://t.co/JypFrH6m2E
— Indian Youth Congress (@IYC) 1500125402000
Modi’s remarks were perhaps in reply to the Congress’s attack on him for the past few days.
On September 15, the Congress supported the move to observe Modi’s birthday as ‘National Unemployment Day’. Congress general secretary in-charge of communications Jairam Ramesh retweeted a post from Yuva Desh which said, “Are you ready?”
क्या आप तैयार है? https://t.co/YkqFdOuHmW
— Yuva Desh (@yuvadesh) 1663253692000
As the euphoria for the return of the cheetahs started growing, the Congress sought to claim credit for it. The tug of war between the Modi government and the Congress only worsened with the passage of each day.
On September 16, Ramesh shared an article he wrote in the Economic Times on July 30 and said it gave “the history of why and how” the bringing of the cheetahs was made possible.
The Congress claimed that the proposal for ‘Project Cheetah‘ was prepared in 2008-09 when UPA 1 was in office at the Centre. “Manmohan Singh’s government approved it. IIn April 2010, the then Minister of Forest and Environment Jairam Ramesh went to the Cheetah Outreach Center in Africa. In 2013, the Supreme Court banned the project. In 2020 the ban was lifted. Now the cheetahs will come,” the party said.
‘प्रोजेक्ट चीता’ का प्रस्ताव 2008-09 में तैयार हुआ।मनमोहन सिंह जी की सरकार ने इसे स्वीकृति दी।अप्रैल 2010 में त… https://t.co/TstsibdI96
— Congress (@INCIndia) 1663324655000
After releasing the cheetahs in Kuno park, Modi said no efforts had been made for decades to bring them back.
Irked over this, Ramesh retorted, “The PM hardly ever acknowledges continuity in governance. The cheetah project going back to my visit to Capetown on 25.04.2010 is the latest example. The tamasha orchestrated by PM today is unwarranted and is yet another diversion from pressing national issues and #BharatJodoYatra.”
He further said, “When tigers were first translocated to Panna and Sariska during 2009-11, there were many prophets of doom. They were proved wrong. Similar predictions are being made on the cheetah project. The professionals involved are first-rate and I wish the project the very best!”
When tigers were first translocated to Panna and Sariska during 2009-11, there were many prophets of doom. They wer… https://t.co/pMdeG1sPir
— Jairam Ramesh (@Jairam_Ramesh) 1663395381000
Ramesh went on to make a no-holds-barred attack on PM Modi. He said, “Even by his own standards, the Jagadguru of Jhoot has hit a new low today. His claim that for decades nothing was done for cheetahs is a blatant lie!”
The Congress leader referred to the newspaper article again and said he had documented the efforts made over the years.
He also released a letter that he, as the then Union minister of environment and forest, had written to MK Ranjitsinh of Wildlife Trust of India and claimed it launched Project Cheetah in 2009.
Through the letter, Ramesh had given the go ahead to Ranjitsinh to prepare a detailed roadmap for the reintroduction of the cheetah “which should include a detailed analysis of different potential sites”.
He said the analysis should be carried out by the Wildlife Institute of India in collaboration with other organisations like Bombay Natural History Society (BNHS) and Wildlife Trust of India (WTI). He expected a roadmap to be submitted to his ministry by the end of January 2010.
Ramesh said, “This was the letter that launched Project Cheetah in 2009. Our PM is a pathological liar.”
This was the letter that launched Project Cheetah in 2009. Our PM is a pathological liar. I couldn’t lay my hands o… https://t.co/DjJTzayZlv
— Jairam Ramesh (@Jairam_Ramesh) 1663476609000
Rahul Gandhi, the most prominent Congress leader taking part in the Bharat Jodo Yatra ever since it was launched on September 7, also launched a frontal attack on the prime minister with the hashtag ‘National Unemployment Day’.
He said, “8 cheetahs have come, now tell me, Why didn’t 16 crore jobs come in 8 years? There is a challenge for the youth, they will get employment.”
8 चीते तो आ गए, अब ये बताइए,8 सालों में 16 करोड़ रोज़गार क्यों नहीं आए? युवाओं की है ललकार, ले कर रहेंगे रोज़गार… https://t.co/bsEw1lMB5s
— Rahul Gandhi (@RahulGandhi) 1663417819000
The BJP hit back at Ramesh. Its national general secretary in-charge of Goa, Maharashtra and Tamil Nadu CT Ravi took a dig at the Congress leader and said, “According to this CONgress Slave, Project Cheetah was launched in 2009 by the UPA Government. That they could not do anything in five years shows their failure & incompetency. What was this Incompetent Slave doing during those 5 years? Prostrating before his Unworthy Masters?”
According to this CONgress Slave, Project Cheetah was launched in 2009 by the UPA Government.That they could not… https://t.co/E7M0ccJi34
— C T Ravi 🇮🇳 ಸಿ ಟಿ ರವಿ (@CTRavi_BJP) 1663499771000
Mumbai BJP women’s wing leader Priti Gandhi called Ramesh’s claim “hilarious”. She said, “Its hilarious how Jairam Ramesh is running around like a headless chicken trying to grab credit for #ProjectCheetah! The fact that Congress launched the Project in 2009 & didn’t achieve a thing until 2014 only shows their failure. Foolish of him to publicize their incompetence!”
Its hilarious how @Jairam_Ramesh is running around like a headless chicken trying to grab credit for… https://t.co/QwB2r3A0As
— Priti Gandhi – प्रीति गांधी (@MrsGandhi) 1663479920000
BJP leader co-in-charge of West Bengal Amit Malviya said the Supreme Court had stayed Jairam Ramesh’s project since in its original avatar it was considered “totally misconceived”.