Amid a raging controversy over the quality of drinking water in the national capital, Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal accused Union minister Ram Vilas Paswan on Wednesday of spreading lies and misleading people on the issue by citing media reports that suggested irregularities in the process of water sample collection in Delhi.
Kejriwal's comments came days after Paswan released a Bureau of Indian Standards (BIS) report that said all water samples collected from the city failed a quality test.
Wading into the war of words between the Centre and the Delhi government over the issue, Union Health Minister Harsh Vardhan alleged that Kejriwal had been keeping his "eyes closed like Dhritarashtra (a character in the Mahabharata) and not trying to understand the pain of people".
Delhi BJP chief Manoj Tiwari shot off a letter to Kejriwal, claiming that people were "deeply scared" and "terrified" of drinking the "poisonous" water being supplied in the city.
Leading the counter attack, Kejriwal retweeted a television news clip, in which a person, whose address featured in the list of places from where the BIS collected the water samples, could be seen telling the media that there was no issue with the quality of drinking water and no sample was taken from his house.
The chief minister tweeted: "Sir (Paswan), you said a sample had been collected from this person's house and it failed (quality analysis), but this man says no specimen was taken from his residence. He is also saying he is satisfied with the water quality. Why did you lie... Why did you commit such a big fraud with people?"
Meanwhile, Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) MLA from Burari Sanjeev Jha alleged that the BIS collected a sample from the house of one Puja Sharma, whose husband Manoj Sharma is the vice-president of Paswan's Lok Janshakti Party.
Reacting to it, Kejriwal said he was saddened to see such "misuse of power to spread fear among the residents of Delhi".
"You have taken a water sample from your own party official's house and spread fear among the residents of Delhi. Such an act does not suit a Union minister," the AAP supremo said in a tweet in Hindi.
A statement form the Delhi government said, "Various media reports showed that the first complainant, as per the Centre's report, neither complained about water quality nor the BIS collected a sample from his house."
Countering Kejriwal's allegation that the BIS report was "false and politically motivated", Vardhan said such reputed agencies did not look at the political affiliation of people while collecting samples.
"As a Union health minister, I can say a large number of children are being admitted to hospitals. Most of these children are falling ill due to contaminated water. It shows that Kejriwal did not pay attention to Delhi's water woes and air pollution," he alleged.
In his letter to Kejriwal, Tiwari said, "Do not play with the lives of children, the elderly and the innocent citizens of Delhi. In the name of free water, you are supplying dirty water and you claim that you are supplying clean drinking water."
Earlier in the day, the chief minister nominated two members -- Delhi Jal Board (DJB) Vice Chairman Dinesh Mohaniya and Member, Water, Shalabh Kumar -- for a joint inspection and testing of water samples in the national capital with the Centre.
Quick to point out that Mohaniya, an AAP leader, was a "political person", Paswan asked Kejriwal to "nominate a non-political person in his place".
The Union minister had challenged Kejriwal to name the team members, including city and central officials, for testing water samples.
The Centre has already nominated two experts from the BIS for a joint inspection of water samples.
On Tuesday, the Delhi government said it would set up 32 teams to collect water samples from each ward in the national capital, conduct a test and put the results in the public domain within a month.
Kejriwal had earlier accused Union ministers of playing "dirty politics" and scaring people by saying the drinking water being supplied in Delhi was poisonous. The chief minister had asserted that Delhi's water quality could not be ascertained on the basis of just 11 samples.
The DJB had said between January 1 and September 24, it collected 1,55,302 samples. Of these, only 2,222 -- around 1.5 per cent -- failed a quality test.