Opposition likely to decide course of action on May 26

Opposition leaders likely to decide next course of action against Modi government's handing of COVID-19 on Tuesday

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

A core group of top Opposition leaders on Tuesday are likely to take a call on the next course of action on the government's "faulty" COVID-19 response after 22 non-BJP parties joined hands to target the Narendra Modi dispensation.

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During the Friday meeting, it was decided that a core group consisting of senior leaders of Congress, NCP, CPI(M), RJD and DMK would put their heads together to soon to decide the next step. The core group includes senior Congress leaders Ghulam Nabi Azad and Ahmed Patel as well as CPI(M) General Secretary Sitaram Yechury.

The opposition parties had on May 22 announced an 11-point charter of demands, including junking the "misleading" Rs 20 lakh crore package for a new one that reflects "true fiscal stimulus", cash transfer of Rs 7,500 per month for six months to non-Income Tax paying people and free food grains for the needy.

The Tuesday deliberations would decide whether to write a joint letter to President Ram Nath Kovind and Prime Minister Narendra Modi outlining their concerns and demands on tackling the coronavirus pandemic.

Sources said one of the options before them would be the letter while they would also discuss ways of protest to register their demands. There have been vocal demands for aggressively targeting BJP, with top RJD leader Tejashwi Yadav saying that the Opposition should "aggressively advertise" BJP's failures in handling the COVID-19 crisis.

Former BJP leader and a Modi-critic Yashwant Sinha also said on Saturday that there is a need for the Opposition to be aggressive. "Opposition parties should hit the streets instead of petitioning the govt which is deaf and blind to the suffering of the poor. Mere 'statement-bazi' (issuing press statements) will not suffice any more," Sinha tweeted referring to the joint statement issued by the 22 parties.

While SP and BSP refused to be part of the joint Opposition programme, AAP was not invited to it. BSP chief Mayawati also launched an attack on Congress putting the blame on the plight of migrant workers on it.

This was the first meeting of joint meeting of the Opposition parties this year, especially after national lockdown was imposed since March 25.

Opposition parties are also concerned about the manner in which some states have gone ahead with suspending labour laws, which included measures like increasing working hours from eight hours to 12 hours. Congress-led Rajasthan government has now withdrawn the order allowing employees to make their employees work up to 12 hours.

The joint statement issued by the Opposition parties also said the government should "present a clear and meaningful economic strategy focused on revival and poverty alleviation instead of propaganda. The Rs 20 lakh crore package and its contents mislead the people of India. We demand that government present a revised and comprehensive package that will be a true fiscal stimulus in order to stimulate demand in the economy".

It also raised questions about the official COVID-19 data and demanded that accurate and relevant information on Covid-19 infections and goalposts vis-a-vis testing, infrastructure and containing spread should be provided. 

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