'Not system, Modi govt failed people': Sonia Gandhi demands all-party meet on COVID-19
The Congress president also said that the Indian National Congress' performance in the just-concluded Assembly elections was 'very disappointing'
New Delhi: Amid rising COVID-19 cases, Congress president Sonia Gandhi on Friday said it is not the system but the Modi government that has failed the people by not being able to channelise resources, and demanded an all-party meeting be convened immediately.
Addressing the Congress Parliamentary Party (CPP) meeting virtually, she also said the party's performance in the just-concluded assembly elections was very disappointing and MPs must draw "appropriate lessons from this setback in the spirit of humility and honesty".
The meeting was attended by the Congress' members in Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha, including Rahul Gandhi. Senior party leader and former prime minister Manmohan Singh could not attend the meet.
Noting that the battle against the COVID-19 pandemic transcends political differences and everyone has to fight it together, Sonia Gandhi launched a fierce attack on Prime Minister Narendra Modi alleging that India is crippled by a political leadership that has no empathy for the people.
The nation is sinking under the weight of the Modi govt’s indifference & incompetence. This is a time for us to steel ourselves & rededicate ourselves in the service of our people.
— Congress (@INCIndia) May 7, 2021
She also demanded that a meeting of the parliamentary standing committees be convened to ensure collective action and accountability to combat the pandemic better.
"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," the Congress president told the MPs.
She said the Congress firmly believes that fighting the pandemic is not a "Government versus Us" battle but a "Us versus Corona" battle.
"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," Sonia Gandhi said.
In the meet, she told Leader of Opposition in Rajya Sabha Mallikarjun Kharge to bring to the notice of the presiding officers of the both House of Parliament the report of the Standing Committee on Health presented in October 2020 and demand that they take action on its recommendations.
"The situation brooks no delay. Tackling this crisis requires able, calm and visionary leadership," Sonia Gandhi said and alleged that the nation is sinking under the weight of the Modi government's indifference and incompetence.
She told Congress MPs that this is the time to rededicate themselves in the service of the people.
India has seen a record number of 4.14 lakh fresh COVID-19 cases and around 4,000 deaths in the last 24 hours, according to health ministry data updated on Tuesday.
Dwelling on the Congress' poor performance in the assembly polls West Bengal, Assam, Kerala, Tamil Nadu and Puducherry, she said, "Most unfortunately, our own performance in all the states was very disappointing and if I may say, unexpectedly so."
"The CWC (Congress Working Committee) is meeting shortly to review the results but it goes without saying that we as a party collective must draw appropriate lessons from this setback in a spirit of humility and honesty," Sonia Gandhi said.
Later, at a joint press conference, Congress leaders Mallikarjun Kharge, Abhishek Singhvi and Gaurav Gogoi said the party wants the Centre to frame a policy on imposition of lockdown and on how to tackle the COVID-19 crisis after consultation with states.
While Kharge alleged that Prime Minister Modi does not listen to anyone and is ignoring suggestions given by experts and opposition leaders, Singhvi said the Centre must frame a stable and clear policy in consultation with states and not indulge mere rhetorics.
Kharge said at a time when so many people are dying, the lockdown should be need based and area based, and done after consultation with experts, states and opposition parties.
He also said that he would be writing to the President on the government's "failure" to follow the recommendations of the Standing Committee on Health and advice of experts.
Singhvi said lockdown is inevitable and necessary going by the number of cases but the Centre must set some minimum standards and the lockdown should be nuanced and calibrated area-wise.
"The PM should have started much earlier. He is doing too little, too late," he said, adding that there has to be a collaborative effort and not just a "jumla" in the name of cooperative federalism.
Gogoi said the Centre should form a policy for lockdown in consultation with states.
Sonia Gandhi had earlier said the CPP meet was convened under extraordinary circumstances, with India being in the grip of a "deadly" health disaster.
Thousands have died and millions are scrambling for basic healthcare, but "what is the Modi government doing?", she said.
"Instead of alleviating their suffering and pain, it (government) has abdicated its fundamental responsibilities and duties towards the people," Sonia gandhi said.
She also alleged that the government's vaccination policy is inequitable and will exclude millions of Dalits, tribals, other backwards classes, as well as the poor and the marginalised.
"It is utterly shocking to see the Modi government abdicate its moral obligation and its sworn duty towards the people," she said.
The government failed to place sufficient orders for vaccines in time to meet the needs of our people and burdened states with vaccine costs, the Congress chief alleged, adding that instead, it consciously chose to allocate thousands of crores for non-essential projects that have nothing to do with peoples' well-being.
"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," she said.
Most of the cases have been reported from North 24 Parganas, Howrah, Kolkata, Hooghly, Murshidabad, South 24 Parganas, Jalpaiguri and Darjeeling districts
The active cases comprise 0.10 per cent of the total infections, while the national COVID-19 recovery rate increased to 98.71 per cent.
This will be the first meeting between the three parties in more than six years. Nitish Kumar earlier met Sonia Gandhi at an Iftaar ahead of the 2015 Bihar assembly polls