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NEW DELHI: Most state governments cutting across political lines on Saturday supported the extension of national lockdown beyond 14 April to contain the spread of the coronavirus pandemic. The views were expressed by chief ministers of key states in a meeting with Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Saturday.

Aam Aadmi Party-led Delhi, Maha Vikas Aghadi-led Maharashtra, Telangana Rashtra Samithi-led Telangana, Trinamool Congress-led West Bengal and Congress-led Rajasthan and Chhattisgarh were some of the key non-Bharatiya Janata Party led state governments that supported the extension of lockdown.

The development points to the larger political consensus emerging over the extension of lockdown which is being seen as the key factor to control the spread of the pandemic. Interestingly, the trend of extending lockdown was started by non-BJP party led state governments. Biju Janata Dal-led Odisha and Congress-led Punjab are the two states which have already announced over a fortnight of extension in the last two days.

Apart from extension of lockdown, regional parties across alliances are in favour of an economic package for farmers and migrant labourers who have returned to their villages since the lockdown started. The ruling Janata Dal (United) or JDU of Bihar is one such political party which is supporting extension of restrictions for a few more weeks.

"We support extension of lockdown or restrictions in the state. But simultaneously union government should also provide assistance to farmers who are suffering because they are not able to harvest. There are so many migrant labourers who have returned home, union government should also announce a package for them," said a senior leader of JDU based in Patna.

The views of JDU leadership got the support of another alliance partner in National Democratic Alliance (NDA), Lok JanShakti Party (LJP), which had also demanded special measures for migrant labourers. The ruling Jharkhand Mukti Morcha (JMM) believes that more than 2 lakh migrant labourers have returned to the state since the lockdown started and there was an urgent need for assistance from the Centre.

On Saturday, Punjab chief minister Captain Amarinder Singh and his Chhattisgarh counterpart Bhupesh Baghel said the extension of lockdown would mean more necessity to assist farmers, poor and daily wage labourers. They added that the union government should announce an economic package to address issues of unemployment and a bonus for farmers.

“In principle, we are in agreement that whatever the union government feels steps are necessary to be taken, including extension of lockdown, we will support it. Punjab has already done it so that is a strong example. We are however highlighting, including in today’s meeting with the Prime Minister, that the poor should not be left on their own and that with extension of lockdown their troubles will get increased and the union government should take necessary steps to address that," a senior Congress leader aware of developments said requesting anonymity.

This was the third round of meeting that PM held with chief ministers over the last one month, pointing to a greater coordination between the Centre and states. To ensure that political stakeholders are onboard, PM has held meeting via video conferencing with floor leaders of all the key political parties earlier this week and held telephonic conversation with chiefs of all the key political parties.

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