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Congress chief Sonia Gandhi chairs a meeting with leaders of opposition parties via video conferencing, in New Delhi. (PTI)
Congress chief Sonia Gandhi chairs a meeting with leaders of opposition parties via video conferencing, in New Delhi. (PTI)

Govt should engage in dialogue with all political parties: Opposition

  • Among its demand, the opposition parties also highlighted the need to ‘reverse all unilateral policy decisions’ including the annulment of labour laws
  • This was first such meeting in nearly three months since outbreak of coronavirus pandemic for which opposition parties came together to hold a meeting

NEW DELHI : Top leaders of opposition parties held a virtual meeting on Friday and demanded that Prime Minister Narendra Modi led union government should engage in dialogue with all political parties in a systematic manner without indulging in ‘showmanship or one-upmanship’. Opposition leaders from 22 parties have also presented a list of 11 demands including more funds for states, direct cash transfers, distribution of food grains, free return for migrants to home and clear exit strategy from lockdown among others.

This was first such meeting in nearly three months since outbreak of coronavirus pandemic for which opposition parties came together to hold a meeting chaired by Congress party Sonia Gandhi to discuss the fallout of the pandemic and the over 50 day national lockdown which was imposed to control its spread.

“We have to point out that the Union Government has failed in discharging its responsibilities in a timely, effective and sensitive manner. Grand announcements have been made but they do nothing meaningful to alleviate the sufferings of people and address the pressing concerns…union government has unabashedly usurped powers vested in the States undermining the constitutionally guaranteed federal democracy," a statement by the opposition parties read after the meeting.

Among its demand, the opposition parties also highlighted the need to ‘reverse all unilateral policy decisions’ including the annulment of labour laws. In doing so, the opposition parties also highlighted the need to activate Parliamentary institutions like standing committees. Similar concerns were raised by Gandhi in her opening address during the meeting.

“That the present government has no solutions is worrying; but that it has no empathy or compassion for the poor and vulnerable is heartbreaking. The government has also abandoned any pretence of being a democratic government," she said adding that powers were centralized in the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) and there was no indication either if the two Houses of Parliament or the Standing Committees would be summoned to meet.

Speaking about the third extension of the national lockdown, Gandhi raised concerns over its effectiveness. “I am also of the view that the government was uncertain about the criteria for lockdowns, nor does it have an exit strategy. Successive lockdowns have yielded diminishing returns," she said adding that economy was gravely crippled and the economic package announced was a ‘cruel joke’ on people.

Friday’s meeting was attended by chief ministers like Uddhav Thackeray of Maharashtra, Mamata Banerjee of West Bengal and Hemant Soren of Jharkhand. Apart from Nationlist Congress Party (NCP) chief Sharad Pawar, Janata Dal (Secular) chief H D Devegowda and general secretary of Communist Party of India (Marxist) Sitaram Yechury among other senior opposition leaders.

The meeting, which was held online video conferencing on Friday afternoon, was however given a miss by two key opposition party leaders from Uttar Pradesh – Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) chief Mayawati and Samajwadi Party (SP) chief Akhilesh Yadav. When asked about their absence, Congress chief spokesperson Randeep Singh Surjewala said that the focus right now should be on troubles being faced by migrants and those affected. He added that the reason for absence of such leaders should be answered by them as to whether they agree with demands made on Friday or not.

“The like-minded parties believe that this is neither the time for showmanship nor one-upmanship. This is the time for a collective endeavour to bring India out of this crisis. This is what the people of India need and this is what the people of India demand," Pawar said in a series of tweets while talking about the meeting.

Apart from this, the opposition parties also discussed the current situation due to Cyclone Amphan particularly in the two key affected states of West Bengal and Odisha. The opposition parties passed a resolution in the meeting demanding that the union government should immediately declare it as a national calamity and aid states in relief and rehabilitation work.

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