Coronavirus | PM should talk to CMs as a colleague, says Rahul Gandhi

Battle against virus will be lost if PMO decides everything, says the former Congress chief.

Updated - May 09, 2020 02:11 am IST

Published - May 08, 2020 12:52 pm IST - New Delhi

Rahul Gandhi. Photo: File

Rahul Gandhi. Photo: File

Former Congress president Rahul Gandhi on Friday argued that the COVID-19 pandemic was a ‘deadly disease only for one or two per cent of the population’ and asserted that India would ‘lose the battle against it if everything was decided by the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO)’. He asked Prime Minister Narendra Modi to talk to the Chief Ministers in preparing a transparent policy with regard to ending the lockdown.

Also read: Coronavirus | Centre is taking arbitrary decisions, say Congress Chief Ministers

Mr. Modi should also help in dispelling a sense of fear that was surrounding the disease and create a sense of confidence, he said.

Addressing an online press conference, Mr. Gandhi refused to directly attack the government. Instead, he offered a number of suggestions such as spending ₹65,000 crore by putting ₹7,500 into 50 % of India’s households, helping farmers with assistance, preparing a wage protection and credit guarantee plans for the micro, small and medium enterprises (MSME) sector and protecting big businesses from going down because of the prolonged lockdown.

He said the lockdown was not an ‘on-off switch’ and would require coordination between the State governments, the Centre, the district magistrates (DMs) and most importantly, the people.

Also read: Formulate a national plan for handling coronavirus crisis, Congress tells Centre

“We need to decentralise power in dealing with the virus. If we keep this fight in the PMO, we will lose. The PM must devolve power. If we centralise, there will be a calamity. The PM has to trust the Chief Ministers and they have to trust the DMs. The PM should treat the CMs as partners and not their boss”.

His comments came after the Chief Ministers of the Congress-ruled States complained about the Centre deciding on marking COVID-19 affected zones as green, orange and red and allegedly not providing adequate funds to fight the pandemic.

Mr. Gandhi said though the Centre had an important role in formulating a national policy, the bulk of the fight had to be carried out by the States and at the district level.

“The Prime Minister has his own style, but in my view, in such a situation, a strong Prime Minister, a lot of strong Chief Ministers and a lot of strong Collectors are needed. I want the disease tackled at at the local level itself. I want a strong Indian leader to stand in front of this disease - be it a DM or a farmer,” he said.

Migrants’ plight

He also expressed his disappointment over migrant workers walking bac k to their villages even after announcements of arrangements of buses and trains.

Mr. Gandhi said that though he understood the Union government’s worry about a possible downgrade and impact on the rupee if it ran up a big fiscal deficit by spending too soon, “it is a risk worth taking without losing any more time to protect the heart of the economy”.

“Creating demand, putting money into the system, putting money into poor people’s hands, helping small and medium businesses, making sure you are protecting some of the larger players, these are all things that are internally linked if you want to start the economy,” he stated.

As his visibility grows amidst the pandemic and questions are being asked about his imminent return as party chief, he indicated that it continued to be a 'closed chapter'. “Please see my letter from a year ago,” he said when asked if he would return as party chief.

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