While Prime Minister Narendra Modi was making an aerial survey of cyclone-ravaged areas of West Bengal and Odisha, 22 opposition parties met on Friday to launch a scathing attack on the Central government.
The meeting, organised by interim Congress president Sonia Gandhi passed a resolution urging "the Central government to immediately declare Cyclone Amphan as a national calamity and substantially help the states in dealing with 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".
It was initially convened to discuss the plight of migrants due to the lockdown, and hit out at the Modi government for its handling of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Gandhi, who faces an FIR in Karnataka over her comments on PM Cares Fund, decided not to hold back in her comments on Modi and accused the Centre of breaking federal spirit and all constitutional norms.
She said “The initial optimism of the prime minister that the war against the virus would conclude in 21 days has turned out to be misplaced. It seems that the virus is here to stay until a vaccine is found. 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. The government also stumbled badly on the testing strategy and the import of testing kits. Meanwhile, the pandemic continues to take its toll.”
Gandhi further said the economy has been gravely crippled. “Every economist of repute had advised an immediate need for a massive fiscal stimulus. The prime minister’s announcement on May 12 of a grand Rs 20 lakh crore package - and the finance minister spelling out its details over the next five days, have turned out to be a cruel joke on the country.”
“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, desperate to reach their home states.”
Gandhi said that apart from the plight of the migrant workers, those who have been cruelly ignored include the 13 crore families in the bottom half of the population, namely -- the tenant farmers and landless agricultural workers; the laid-off or retrenched workers and employees; the shopkeepers and the self-employed; the 5.8 crore out of the 6.3 crore MSMEs; and organised industries, including the large businesses, that drive our country’s growth.
Despite the Congress chief’s scathing attack, the dampener was the absence of parties like Samajwadi Party (SP), Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) and Aam Aadmi Party (AAP).
The Congress said AAP has never been invited as the latter does not want to be part of the opposition. Earlier in the day of the meeting, BSF supremo Mayawati accused the Congress of witchhunt and corruption.
With the opposition remaining divided, the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party has a reason to smile.