Congress president Sonia Gandhi – while chairing the first meeting of the Opposition parties held amid the lockdown on Friday – took on the Narendra Modi-led Central government and termed the Rs 20 lakh crore financial stimulus package as a “cruel joke on the country”.
Going on to say that the “defining image of the pandemic has been the lakhs of migrant workers, many with children, walking hundreds of kilometres, without money, food or medicines,” Sonia said in her opening statement that the “economy has been gravely crippled”.
Highlighting the genesis of the economic crisis gripping the country, Sonia said that the downfall of the Indian economy has started before CVOID-19 hit the country.
“Demonitisation and a hasty and flawed GST were amongst its main causes. The economic downturn began in 2017-18. Seven quarters of declining GDP growth was no ordinary event; it was unprecedented. Yet, the government carried on with its misguided policies and incompetent governance,” she said.
Saying that the “initial optimism of the Prime Minister that the war against the virus would conclude in 21 days has turned out to be misplaced,” Sonia added, “The government was uncertain about the criteria for lockdowns, nor does it have an exit strategy. Successive lockdowns have yielded diminishing returns. The government also stumbled badly on the testing strategy and the import of test kits”.
Hitting out at the PM for consolidating all power in his hand, Sonia said the spirit of federalism is forgotten.
“The government has also abandoned any pretence of being a democratic government. All power is now concentrated in one office, the PMO. The spirit of Federalism which is an integral part of our Constitution is all but forgotten. There is no indication either if the two Houses of Parliament or the Standing Committees will be summoned to meet,” she said.
Issuing a castigating remark, Sonia said that the demand for direct cash transfer “have fallen on deaf ears”.
The Congress party had sent invites to 18 Opposition parties earlier this week for the meet. It was skipped by BSP chief Mayawati, SP president Akhilesh Yadav and Delhi CM Arvind Kejriwal.
At the end of the meeting, like minded parties issued a statement that can be read here:
“We, the opposition parties extend our sympathy and support to the government and people of West Bengal and Odisha in meeting the impact of the devastation caused by Cyclone Amphan.
This meeting of leaders of opposition parties conveys its deepest condolences to the families of those who have lost their lives.
We express our solidarity and sympathies with the pain of those who have suffered other losses. The country and its people are already in the midst of a grim struggle for survival combating the COVID-19 pandemic.
A natural calamity like Cyclone Amphan has come as a double blow, breaking the spirits of the people. People in both these states urgently need support and solidarity of the governments and people of the country.
Opposition Parties therefore urge the central government to immediately declare this as a national calamity and substantially help the states in facing the impact of this disaster.
At this juncture, relief and rehabilitation should be the top most priority. But the possibility of an outbreak of other diseases as a result of such calamity must also not be ignored. Henceforth, we the Opposition Parties call upon the central government to provide urgent help to our fellow citizens/countrymen”.