NEW DELHI: With differences growing between state governments and Centre over crucial issues such as the pandemic and welfare of migrants and farmers, chief ministers of opposition-ruled states -- Punjab, West Bengal and Delhi -- are using all-party meetings for greater political consensus.
While most opposition parties say Prime Minister Narendra Modi-led union government should have more engagements with political stakeholders in New Delhi, all-party meetings at the state level have been a trend over the last one month, more in states where the National Democratic Alliance is in opposition.
Amid criticism from opposition parties over the government’s handling of the covid-19 pandemic, West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee called an all-party meeting in Kolkata on Wednesday. The importance of the meeting can be gauged from the fact that it was after the deliberations therein that the state announced extension of lockdown till 31 July with certain relaxations.
The meeting on Wednesday also discussed fallout of Cyclone Amphan in the state. The need for gaining political consensus on issues of critical importance was evident when Banerjee-led state government constituted an expert committee with representatives from all political parties in the state to take stock of the post-cyclone situation.
However, in some states, such all-party meetings are also turning into political battlegrounds. In Punjab, for instance, chief minister Captain Amarinder Singh had called for an all-party meeting on Wednesday to discuss the three farm related ordinances passed by Union government which aim to create “One nation, One agriculture market’ concept. War of words ensued between the Congress government and main opposition Shiromani Akali Dal over the latter’s stand in the meeting.
“We have been trying on most key issues to hold all-party meetings to keep all political stake holders in loop on stands taken by the state government. Each party comes with their own point of view, while the hope is of gaining consensus over an issue, sometimes gaining diverse view in itself is important and that is what seems to have happened in the case of the ordinance meeting," a senior Congress leader from Punjab said requesting anonymity.
SAD has accused the Congress government in Punjab of misrepresenting party’s stand on a proposed delegation to the Prime Minister, allegedly opposing the farm ordinances. Singh has accused its leaders of doublespeak on the issue.
Meanwhile, in Delhi, Lieutenant Governor Anil Baijal and union home minister Amit Shah have held all-party meetings this month to iron out differences with chief minister Arvind Kejriwal-led Aam Aadmi Party over handling of covid-19 pandemic. Delhi and the Centre have been at loggerheads on a number of issues related to the pandemic, including home quarantine rules and testing, among others.