NATIONAL: It is not the “system” but the Narendra Modi government that had failed the people of India, Congress president Sonia Gandhi told a virtual meeting of the Congress Parliamentary Party (CPP) on Friday. She asserted that the government should convene an all-party meeting on the COVID-19 situation.
The Congress chief said the battle against the virus transcended political differences and the Congress party firmly believed that “fighting Covid is not a ‘Government versus Us’ battle but an ‘Us versus Corona’ battle”.
“Let us be absolutely clear — the system hasn’t failed. The Modi government has been unable to constructively channelise India’s many strengths and resources. I say this categorically — India is crippled by a political leadership today that has no empathy for the people. The Modi government has failed the people of our country…Tackling this crisis requires able, calm and visionary leadership. The nation is sinking under the weight of the Modi government’s indifference and incompetence,” Ms. Gandhi said.
In her opening remarks, Ms. Gandhi also dwelt upon the “disappointing and unexpected performance” of the Congress in the recently concluded Assembly elections and informed her colleagues that the Congress Working Committee (CWC) would be meeting to review it soon.
Sources told The Hindu that when Punjab MP Jasbir Gill started to speak on the poll results, he was reminded that Friday’s meeting was only on COVID-19, and the CWC could meet as early as next Monday.
Except Rajya Sabha member Vivek Tankha, none from the group of Congress’ 23 dissenters (G-23) spoke at the meeting that was specifically on the COVID-19 situation. While Ghulam Nabi Azad is no longer a Parliamentarian, the party’s Deputy Leader in the Rajya Sabha and prominent G-23 member Anand Sharma did not attend because of health reasons.
Of the 10-odd MPs who took part in the discussion, Abhishek Singhvi suggested the creation of a “Congress COVID Charge Fund” in which every party member member could contribute a uniform amount that can used for providing oxygen cylinders or other medical supplies.
Noting that the CPP was meeting under extraordinary circumstances, Ms. Gandhi said that India was in the grip of a deadly health disaster that has seen thousands dying and millions scrambling to access basic healthcare, life-saving medicines, oxygen, and vaccines.
Ignoring expert advice, the Modi government had refused to address the supply chain of medical requirements, she alleged.
“This battle transcends political differences. We have to fight this battle together as a nation. In that spirit, as a first step, I believe that the Modi government must urgently call an all-party meeting on the COVID-19 situation,” she said.
She said it was heartbreaking to see people battling for their lives in hospitals, on roads, waiting in vehicles, far too many for want of any medical help at all. “And what is the Modi government doing? Instead of alleviating their suffering and pain, it has abdicated its fundamental responsibilities and duties towards the people,” she charged.
“Instead of helping desperate patients, some BJP governments have been using the State’s repressive power to arrest people merely for crying out for help,” Ms. Gandhi added, alleging that they were also cracking down on citizen groups that were trying their best to help, and forcing social media platforms to “obfuscate” the truth.
Calling the government’s vaccination policy “inequitable”, she said it would exclude millions of Dalits, Adivasis and Other Backward Classes, as well as the poor and the marginalised.
Leader of the Opposition in the Rajya Sabha Mallikarjun Kharge, addressing a press conference later, said that while the rest of the world prepared to meet the second wave of the pandemic, the Modi government had been caught sleeping.
“When someone like Rahul-ji (Rahul Gandhi) alerted them, their standard response would be to ridicule,” Mr. Kharge said.