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Prime Minister Narendra Modi  (PTI)
Prime Minister Narendra Modi (PTI)

PM dials leaders across political divide ahead of key 8 April meet

  • Modi speaks to leaders of national and regional parties in the wake of the rapid spread of the coronavirus
  • In the last fortnight, Modi has held two rounds of video conferencing with chief ministers

Taking a step toward engaging the political establishment about the situation with the covid-19 epidemic, Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Sunday spoke to former presidents and prime ministers as well as several leaders of national and regional political parties.

This is the first time that Modi has reached out to political leaders across the spectrum. While he has held two rounds of video conferencing with chief ministers in the last fortnight, engagements with floor leaders of all key political parties has been scheduled for 8 April.

Modi spoke on Sunday with former presidents Pranab Mukherjee and Pratibha Patil as well as former prime ministers Manmohan Singh and H.D. Deve Gowda.

“This is not an issue about political parties or government. We all have to come together, the entire country has to come together to fight the spread of this virus. PM spoke to several leaders and it is a welcome step because we must not forget that Pranab Mukherjee, Manmohan Singh have all been part of the government earlier and they can also suggest some steps to the government," said a senior leader Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) who will attend the 8 April meeting.

During the day, Modi also spoke to Congress president Sonia Gandhi, West Bengal chief minister and Trinamool Congress (TMC) chief Mamata Banerjee, Samajwadi Party leaders Akhilesh Yadav and Mulayam Singh Yadav, Odisha chief minister Naveen Patnaik, Shiromani Akali Dal leader Parkash Singh Badal, Telangana chief minister K. Chandrashekar Rao and M.K. Stalin of Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam.

The decision to reach out to several chief ministers and political party chiefs before the all-party meeting is also important because TMC has been considering skipping the meeting.

Several political parties, including members of National Democratic Alliance (NDA) and opposition parties are of the view that the union government must announce a special package for farmers to revive the rural economy.

“The government must announce a special package for farmers because it will help revive rural economy. The government should also talk about daily wage labourers and farm workers who have gone back to their villages and lost their jobs. We also want the government to talk about the steps being taken to revive the economy," said a senior Patna-based leader of Janata Dal (United) or JDU.

Gandhi has written two letters to Modi so far highlighting the need for doing more for daily wagers, migrant labourers, farm workers and the middle classes. The Congress at the all-party meeting on 8 April will draw the prime minister’s attention to the needs of states, particularly with respect to testing kits and healthcare equipment.

“There is a unanimity that we need to do more testing and the union government has to have a more effective strategy in place for this. There is a need to handhold the states not just in terms of providing more financial help but also with resources. Immediate measures need to be taken to revive agricultural demand and these are some of the key issues we will be flagging at the meeting with floor leaders," a senior Congress lawmaker and functionary in its parliamentary party said, requesting anonymity.

The leader quoted above added that another key issue which Congress will raise is the need to ensure smooth disbursal of financial benefits announced in the economic package by Union finance minister Nirmala Sitharaman.


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