Sonia Gandhi hits out at Modi government over border standoff with China, economic crisis, fuel hike
Congress president Sonia Gandhi on Tuesday said India has been hit by a terrible economic crisis, a pandemic of huge proportions and a full-blown crisis on the border with China due to the “mismanagement” and “wrong policies” of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)-led government.
“It is said ‘misfortunes do not come singly’. The cumulative effect is widespread misery, fear and danger to the security and territorial integrity of the country,” she said in her opening remarks at a virtual meeting of the Congress Working Committee (CWC), the party’s highest decision-making body.
Gandhi sharpened her attack on Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his government on the border standoff with China.
“True to its character, the government is in denial. The intrusion was detected and reported on May 5. Instead of a resolution, the situation deteriorated rapidly and there were violent clashes on June 15-16. Twenty Indian soldiers were martyred, 85 injured and 10 went ‘missing’ until they were returned,” she said.
“The Prime Minister was called out when he announced that ‘no one had intruded into Indian territory in Ladakh’,” Gandhi said in reference to Modi’s remarks at an all-party meeting on June 19, that neither anyone is present in Indian territory nor any Indian post had been captured by the Chinese.
The Congress party says Modi’s stand contradicted past remarks by defence minister Rajnath Singh, foreign minister S Jaishankar and army chief Gen MM Naravane on the Chinese intrusions. Former premier Manmohan Singh on Monday said a prime minister must be mindful of his words on a nation’s strategic interests, insisting China should not be allowed to use Modi’s words as a vindication of its position that it did not enter the Indian side of the Line of Actual Control (LAC).
Gandhi reiterated her party’s support to the government in its efforts to deal with the situation.
“On matters of national security and territorial integrity, the nation has always stood together and this time too, there is no second opinion. The Congress party was the first to offer its total support to the armed forces and the government,” she said.
However, she contended the government has gravely mishandled the situation. “The future is yet to unfold but we hope that mature diplomacy and decisive leadership will inform the government’s actions in protecting our territorial integrity,” she added.
Gandhi urged the government to ensure that peace, calm and restoration of status quo ante along the LAC remain the only guiding principles in India’s national interest. “We will continue to closely watch the situation,” she asserted.
She criticised the government over the state of the economy and its stimulus package, saying the crisis has worsened. She stressed the need for immediate financial aid for micro, medium and small enterprises (MSMEs) and direct cash transfers to the poor.
“The Modi government refuses to listen to good advice. The need of the hour is a massive fiscal stimulus, putting money directly in the hands of the poor, protecting and nurturing the MSMEs, and stimulating demand,” she said. “Instead, the government announced a hollow financial package that had a fiscal component of less than 1% of GDP.”
On the continuous rise in fuel prices, Gandhi said the government has added “insult to injury” by mercilessly raising petrol and diesel prices for 17 consecutive days, at a time when world prices of crude have fallen.
Oil companies hiked auto fuel rates for the 17th day in a row by 20 paise a litre and 55 paise respectively on Tuesday. Diesel is costlier by Rs 10 per litre in just 17 days and petrol by 8.50 a litre.
“The result is that a sliding economy is now hurtling toward a recession for the first time in 42 years. I am afraid there will be high unemployment, falling incomes and wages, and lower investment. Recovery is likely to take a long time, and that too only if the government corrects its course and adopts sound economic policies,” she said.
Gandhi said when the Covid-19 pandemic hit India in February, the Congress offered its total support to the government and backed the nationwide lockdown.
“Within weeks, it was apparent that government was totally unprepared to manage the fallout of a lockdown. The result was the greatest humanitarian crisis witnessed since 1947-48. Millions of migrant workers, daily wage earners and self-employed were devastated. One hundred and thirty million jobs are estimated to have been lost. Crores of MSMEs have been shut, perhaps forever,” she said.
Despite the assurances of Modi who “centralised all authority in his hands”, Gandhi said the pandemic continues to rage.
“The grave deficiencies in the health infrastructure have been exposed. The promised ‘peak’ is nowhere in sight,” she said, alleging the Centre has passed the buck to state governments, but given them zero extra finances.
“Actually, the people have been left to protect themselves as best as possible. The mismanagement of the pandemic will be recorded as one of the most disastrous failures of the Modi government,” Gandhi said, and thanked Congress workers for their help and support to migrant workers and other affected people during the pandemic.