Sonia Gandhi to chair Oppn leaders’ meeting
A Congress leader said Sonia Gandhi and her party’s key ally, Nationalist Congress Party chief Sharad Pawar, were keen on holding the meeting and chalk out a future course of action.Updated: May 20, 2020 06:52 IST
Congress president Sonia Gandhi will on Friday chair an opposition leaders’ meeting via video-conferencing to discuss the impact of the Covid-19 lockdown, the Centre’s Rs 20 lakh crore package, the plight of migrants, farmers and the suspension of labour laws in Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)-ruled states.
A Congress leader said Gandhi and her party’s key ally, Nationalist Congress Party chief Sharad Pawar, were keen on holding the meeting and chalk out a future course of action. He said the two spoke twice to finalise the meeting.
People aware of the matter said the opposition parties want to put pressure on the government to accept their demands for announcing “adequate relief measures”, including direct cash transfers for the poor, migrant workers, farmers as well as a financial package for micro, small and medium enterprises as part of a revised package to revive the crisis-hit economy.
“The opposition parties want to discuss the Covid-19 situation. That is good. We discuss with the government regularly. Now, the opposition parties will discuss how we can do better and what we are facing,” said West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee.
Banerjee’s Maharashtra and Jharkhand counterparts, Uddhav Thackeray and Hemant Soren, Pawar, Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam chief MK Stalin, Communist Party of India (Marxist) general secretary Sitaram Yechury, Communist Party of India general secretary D Raja will attend the meeting. Rashtriya Janata Dal, Indian Union Muslim League, Jammu & Kashmir National Conference, All India United Democratic Front, Loktantrik Janata Dal and Revolutionary Socialist Party leaders, too, are expected to join it. The Samajwadi Party and the Bahujan Samaj Party were yet to confirm their participation, the people added.
This will be the first meeting of the opposition leaders since the lockdown was enforced across the country on March 25 to contain the Covid-19 pandemic.
The Congress and the BJP have been involved in a war of words on issues like the plight of migrant workers left jobless by the lockdown. The workers have continued to cycle and walk back to their homes even as buses in late April and special trains have been arranged for them since May 1. The Congress has accused the government of being insensitive towards the plight of the workers. The BJP has hit back and blamed the opposition party for politicising the issue. Former Congress president Rahul Gandhi interacted with and arranged transportation for a group of workers from Delhi on Saturday.
The two parties have also exchanged words over the suspension of major labour laws in BJP-ruled Uttar Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh to help businesses recoup from the Covid-19 blow and to create more jobs.
Rahul Gandhi has accused the government of using Covid-19 as an excuse to exploit the workers, suppress their voice and crush their human rights.
The Congress has called the Centre’s Covid-19 economic package “hopelessly inadequate” and said it has “left high and dry” several sections, including 130 million families at the bottom half of the population, migrant workers and farmers. It has maintained the package only amounts to Rs 1,86,650 crore, which is barely 0.91% of the GDP, and includes already budgeted expenditure, regulatory measures, and proposed reforms.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced the package last week to help individuals and businesses. Union finance minister Nirmala Sitharaman has announced details of the package, which the Centre has said is equivalent of a little below 10% of the GDP.
BJP refused comment on the meeting.
Hyderabad-based political analyst C Narasimha Rao said the entire country is pained at seeing the plight of migrant workers, maintaining that it is the responsibility of both the ruling side and the opposition parties to ensure these stranded labourers return safely to their home states.
“The opposition parties should join hands and put pressure on the government to ensure the suffering of the migrant workers is ameliorated,” he said.