Coronavirus lockdown | Opposition meet to discuss govt handling of COVID-19

Congress president Sonia Gandhi. File

Congress president Sonia Gandhi. File   | Photo Credit: PTI

Since Lockdown 1.0, Opposition leaders like Mamata and Yechury had been pushing for a joint meeting

Nearly two months after the Union government announced a lockdown on March 25, Opposition leaders, including Congress president Sonia Gandhi, will discuss on May 22 through videoconferencing the government's handling of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Also read: Coronavirus package | Talk of space travel a cruel joke amid migrant workers’ crisis, says Congress

Since the start of Lockdown 1.0, Opposition leaders like West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee and CPI(M)’s Sitaram Yechury had been pushing for a joint meeting of the Opposition parties but it kept getting deferred, a senior leader told The Hindu. Now, Ms Gandhi has once again taken a fresh initiative to bring Opposition leaders together.

Though the Congress had initially extended its support to the Modi government, it is now very critical of the handling of the migrant workers’ crisis.

The meeting comes just days after the Centre announced an economic stimulus package comprising a slew of reforms such as opening up the defence sector and aerospace and relaxation of labour laws among others.

Also read: Coronavirus package | Will migrant workers benefit from the Centre’s measures?

Congress leaders’ criticism

“They [the government] have been opportunistic....It is bypassing the stakeholder consultation process. It is bypassing legislation in Parliament. It is bypassing a discussion in Parliament and all this will be resisted and challenged,” former Union Finance Minister P Chidamabaram said on Monday when asked about the announcements. “If there is a genuine reform, they take the economy forward we will support it, but the people have to know the fine print”, he added.

Senior Congress leader Anand Sharma accused the government of putting “national assets on a grand clearance sale”.

Former Union Minister Jairam Ramesh took to Twitter to ridicule the Prime Minister on the stimulus package.

Also read: Congress should work with Centre to send more migrants home, says Nirmala Sitharaman

Posting a chart that claimed how various international and national agencies had valued India’s package to be between 0.7% to 1.3 % of the GDP, Mr. Ramesh said, “Can all be wrong and only our Prime Minister be right?No. He is the Jagadguru of Jhoot!”

While the Gandhis have been somewhat restrained in attacking the government, other party leaders have squarely blamed the government for the migrant workers’ crisis.

“Our poor are on streets, starving & in pain. Walking back in great agony. They need help, they need support, they need empathy. In pursuance to PM’s promise for Corona relief to them, the govt opens up inter planetary space travel for private players. The joke is on our nation,” Congress treasurer Ahmed Patel said last Saturday.

Also read: Coronavirus lockdown | Weary migrant workers lug crashed hopes en route their homes

Mr. Patel has been in touch with senior Opposition leaders such as NCP chief Sharad Pawar, Mr. Yechury, CPI’s D Raja among others to firm up the final list of attendees for Friday's meeting.

In the recent past, Hindi heartland parties such as the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) and Samajwadi Party mostly skipped such Opposition meets.

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Printable version | May 31, 2020 10:34:30 AM |

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