20 Jul 2021: Congress, Akali Dal to skip PM's all-party meet on COVID-19
The Congress party and the Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) have said they will not attend the central government's all-party meeting on its COVID-19 management this evening. The main Opposition party, and SAD, which is the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party's (BJP) former ally, have cited separate reasons for skipping the meet. The government is scheduled to make a presentation on COVID-19 at 6 pm today.
Meeting: Union Health Secretary likely to make a presentation
On Saturday, Parliamentary Affairs Minister Prahlad Joshi had announced that Prime Minister Narendra Modi would hold a session on the pandemic at the Parliament House Annexe. During the meet, the Union Health Secretary is likely to make a presentation and it will be attended by the PM, according to reports. The Annexe is a separate building located on the premises of the Parliament complex.
Congress: Discussion should be held in the House first: Congress
The Congress says that a discussion on the issue must be held by Members of Parliament in the House first. "If he (PM Modi) wants to give a presentation on COVID-19, he should give it in the Central Hall separately to MPs and Rajya Sabha members," said Mallikarjun Kharge, the Leader of Opposition in Rajya Sabha. However, he insisted it is not a boycott.
Statement: SAD boycotted the meeting over the farmers' issues
The Akali Dal, meanwhile, said it would boycott the meeting, citing the months-long farmers' protest over the Centre's three controversial farm laws, passed last year. "Today, Shiromani Akali Dal will boycott PM Modi's briefing on COVID-19. It will be attended only after he calls a meeting to discuss farm issues," said party head Sukhbir Singh Badal.
Other parties: 'We don't want fancy PowerPoint presentations'
Several other Opposition leaders have criticized the PM's all-party meet. They said that a time when the Parliament is in Session, what is the need to go "outside" to discuss issues. "MPs do not want fancy PowerPoint presentations on COVID-19 from the PM or this government...Parliament is in session. Come to the floor of the House," Trinamool Congress leader Derek O'Brien tweeted on Sunday.
Other developments: Monsoon Session of Parliament had begun on Monday
The Monsoon Session of the Parliament had begun on Monday amid protests by Opposition parties over several issues, including COVID-19 management and farmers' protest. Earlier today, both the Houses of the Parliament were adjourned for hours as the Opposition continued to protest against the Pegasus scandal. Meanwhile, PM Modi reportedly asked BJP leaders to counter the Opposition's attacks on COVID-19 handling and vaccine shortage.
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Also see: PM Modi asks BJP leaders to counter Opposition on COVID-19
Pegasus row: Both Parliament Houses adjourned as Opposition protests
Sharad Pawar meets PM Modi, raises concerns over Cooperation Ministry
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