The priest of a temple in Maharashtra’s Washim district and 18 others tested positive for coronavirus on Thursday, two days after minister Sanjay Rathod and a large number of his supporters visited the place, an official said.
The minister, facing allegations in connection with a young woman’s death in Pune, had come in for criticism for the gathering at Poharadevi Temple on Tuesday amid the rising number of coronavirus cases in the state.
“As a precautionary measure, the health department carried out tests of people who were present there. (Priest) Mahant Kabirdas and 18 others tested positive for COVID-19,” the health official said.
Rathod, who had not appeared in public for two weeks after his name was linked to the suspected suicide of a 23 year-old woman, visited the Poharadevi Jagadmaba temple with a large number of supporters on Tuesday.
The deity is revered especially by the Banjara community to which he belongs.
Rathod’s visit and the gathering, seen as a show-of strength, came a day after Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray had warned of strict measures if people continued to flout COVID 19-related safety norms.
Rathod, who handles the forest portfolio, is a minister from Mr Thackeray’s own party, the Shiv Sena.
Leader of Opposition in the state Legislative Council Pravin Darekar said it was unfortunate that the chief minister’s appeal was ignored by his own party leaders.
“A minister putting people’s lives at risk for his own political survival is not acceptable,” the BJP leader said.
A 23-year-old woman was found dead outside the building where she lived in Pune on February 8.
While police said they were probing the suicide angle too, the opposition BJP demanded that Rathod’s alleged role should be probed after some audio clips linked to the case went viral.
Rathod denied that he had anything to do with the woman’s death.
(Except for the headline, this story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is published from a syndicated feed.)