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How a Festive Stroll Over a Historic Bridge Turned to Carnage in India

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Arjun Modhwadia, a member of the Congress party and a former opposition leader in Gujarat, said that B.J.P. leaders had announced the bridge’s opening as a “Diwali gift to the people of Morbi,” without ensuring its safety.

Yamal Vyas, a spokesman for the B.J.P. in Gujarat, said that the national government had appointed a “high-powered committee” to investigate the disaster. Mr. Modi, who was campaigning in Gujarat, his home state, ahead of fiercely contested state assembly elections, canceled at least some of the rest of the week’s campaign events.

“Congress wants to ply politics in everything,” Mr. Vyas said.

Ajanta blamed the victims. “Too many people in the midsection of the bridge were trying to sway it from one side to the other,” a newspaper, The Indian Express, quoted a company spokesman as saying. It was unclear why the company had allowed so many people on the bridge at once; Ajanta did not immediately respond to requests for comment from The New York Times.

The company’s chairman, Jaysukh Patel, spoke at a news conference Monday.

“This hanging bridge is a historical treasure of Morbi,” Mr. Patel said, adding that Ajanta had hired a subcontractor with experience repairing bridges to meet “technical specifications” and other requirements.

The regional police chief, Ashok Yadav, said that a police case had been filed, and that four people, including a ticket taker and a security guard, had been arrested on charges of attempting to commit culpable homicide and of causing death by negligence.

If history holds, it may be unlikely that any companies or municipal officials face serious consequences. Infrastructure failures caused by overcrowding are common in India and rarely result in accountability or change.

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