BJP spreading virus of communal hatred: Sonia
New Delhi: Congress president Sonia Gandhi on Thursday attacked the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) for “spreading the virus of communal prejudice and hatred” when the entire nation should be united in tackling the Covid-19 pandemic.
“Let me also share with you something that should worry each and every one of us as Indians. When we should be tackling the coronavirus unitedly, the BJP continues to spread the virus of communal prejudice and hatred,” she said in her opening remarks at a meeting of the party’s highest decision-making body, the Congress Working Committee (CWC), via video conference. “Grave damage is being done to our social harmony. Our party, we will have to work hard to repair that damage.”
In a resolution adopted at the meeting, the CWC accused the BJP of seeking to “inflame communal divisions even as the entire nation battles the Covid-19 pandemic”.
The resolution said the virus does not discriminate on the basis of caste, creed, religion or gender. “As a nation, we must be wary of forces that seek to polarise in times of crisis such as these. The onus lies on us to ensure that we stand together as one nation in the face of all odds.”
BJP spokesman Shahnawaz Hussain said it is unfortunate that Gandhi is trying to give the pandemic a communal colour. “Prime Minister Narendra Modi has already said this virus does not differentiate on the basis of religion or caste. The entire country has to fight this challenge together. If the Congress cannot joint this fight against the challenge, it should at least refrain from giving it a communal colour.”
Gandhi said the Centre does not appear to have a clear idea on how the situation will be managed after May 3, when the extended nationwide lockdown imposed to contain the pandemic is scheduled to end. “A lockdown of the present nature after that date would be even more devastating.”
The CWC urged the Centre to come out with an exit strategy and a road map to ensure adequate infrastructure to deal with a potential spike in Covid-19 cases and for the economic revival (after the lockdown ends).
Gandhi reiterated her commitment to extending constructive support to the government in dealing with the crisis.
She said all sections of the society, particularly farmers, farm labourers, migrant labour, construction workers and those in the unorganised sector, continue to face hardship. She added that trade, commerce and industry have come to a virtual halt and millions of livelihoods have been destroyed.
Gandhi said she has written several times to Prime Minister Narendra Modi and offered constructive cooperation and also made a number of suggestions.
Gandhi told the CWC that the suggestions were formulated on the basis of feedback from different sources, including Congress chief ministers. “Unfortunately, they have been acted upon only partially and in a miserly way. The compassion, large-heartedness and alacrity that should be forthcoming from the central government is conspicuous by its absence,” she said.
“We have repeatedly urged the Prime Minister that there is no alternative to testing, tracing and quarantine programme. Unfortunately, testing still remains low and testing kits are still in short supply and of poor quality. PPE [personal protection equipment] kits are being provided to our doctors and healthcare workers but the number and quality are poor.”
The CWC said 110 million people, who need subsidised food, remain outside of the public distribution system and 120 million jobs were lost in the first phase of the lockdown.
The CWC also discussed the issues of migrant workers, farmers, revival of Micro, Small and Medium Scale Enterprises, and empowerment of states.
“The fight must be bottom-up instead of the top-down, one size fits all policy is currently on display. The Centre can vastly bolster the states’ efforts by providing them with adequate financial support starting with releasing their full share of the Goods and Services Tax collected so far and allowing them greater fiscal space to borrow,” it said.
In his address to the CWC, former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said the success of the lockdown will be judged finally based on the country’s ability to tackle Covid-19. He added cooperation between the Centre and states is the key to success in the fight against coronavirus.
Rahul Gandhi said the issue of migrant workers needs to be addressed on priority basis. “Lockdown is a mere pause button. As a nation, we need to think of a transition from a complete lockdown to lockdown only in disease hot zones and commencement of activities in green zones.”