All party meeting | Opposition leaders demand financial help, GST dues

PM Modi speaks at the all-party meet.   | Photo Credit:

An all-party meeting chaired by Prime Minister Narendra Modi to discuss the COVID-19 vaccine strategy saw Opposition party leaders re-emphasising the need for the government to take urgent measures to bring the economy back on track, and demanding additional financial help. Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) MP T.R. Baalu was the lone person to raise the ongoing farmers’ agitation. 

Several parties flagged the need to pay the GST (Goods and Services Tax) dues that the Central government owes to the States, and additional financial help to meet the revenue shortfall that many States are facing due to COVID-19 pandemic.

Also read | By when will every Indian get free COVID-19 vaccine, Rahul Gandhi asks PM Modi

According to the sources, the Shiv Sena, which was represented by Lok Sabha MP Vinayak Raut, forcefully argued that GST collection by the Central government was more than ₹ 1 lakh crore rupees and there is no reason to withhold the share of the State governments. 

NCP patriarch Sharad Pawar, while praising the government’s efforts in controlling the pandemic, stressed that there was a need for greater intervention in salvaging the economy. 

Trinamool Congress (TMC) leader Sudip Bandhopadhyay spoke about need to “handhold” the States in this hour of crisis. The West Bengal government has made repeated demands for financial assistance. 

Telangana Rashtra Samithi (TRS) MP Namma Nageshwar Rao also spoke on similar lines. Sources said that, among other demands, Mr. Rao had said the government should provide the COVID-19 vaccine free of cost. The Central government, he said, should ensure that it builds cold storage units across the country for easy transport of the vaccine. Four other parties — the Biju Janata Dal (BJD), the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP), the YSR Congress Party (YSRCP) and the Samajwadi Party (SP) also urged the government to provide vaccines for free for poor and vulnerable sections. 

The DMK’s Mr. Baalu was the only one among 13 Opposition and NDA allies at the meeting to raise the issue of the ongoing farmers’ agitation. Sources said, at the end of the speech, when Mr Baalu raised the issue, Parliamentary Affairs Minister Pralhad Joshi interrupted and told him to stick to the topic. Mr. Baalu, sources said, retorted that for the last ten days farmers had been on the road and should not be ignored. A heated exchange between Mr. Joshi and Mr. Baalu followed. Sources said Mr. Baalu’s microphone was muted as the meeting went ahead. 

Only a select few parties, who have ten or more MPs, were allowed to speak during the meeting. The Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M) leader Elamaram Kareem wrote a letter to the PM since he could not speak at the meeting. He flagged the “continuous contraction” in GDP and said that the economic stimulus package provided by the government was inadequate. “These packages, without any significant hikes in government expenditures or direct cash transfers, to the people won’t be able to revive the economy,” he wrote. 

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Printable version | Jan 17, 2021 3:00:58 PM |

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