The Congress has called a video conference of the opposition parties on Friday afternoon to discuss the current situation in the country. The agenda includes the government's handling of the coronavirus pandemic, the migrant issue, the states' suspension of labour laws, and the freeze on the activities of the various parliamentary committees which function even when Parliament is not in session. The meeting, to be held at 3 pm on Friday, is also expected to discuss the government's economic package and other steps regarding the coronavirus pandemic.
The Congress chief, Mrs. Sonia Gandhi, will chair the meet, for which 18 parties have been invited. Mr. MK Stalin's DMK, the Left parties, and Ms. Mamata Banerjee's Trinamool Congress have already accepted. In Kolkata, Ms. Banerjee said, 'I will attend. It is a good thing. We will discuss the COVID-19 situation'. Nationalist Congress Party chief, Mr. Sharad Pawar, is also expected to attend the online session.
The Congress spokesperson, Mr. Randeep Surjewala, said, 'We will follow every possible option to ensure there is a legislative oversight' and work with the opposition parties.
Since Parliament was adjourned in March days ahead of the countrywide lockdown, the government has been conducting video conferences on various levels to discuss governance issues. But no meeting of the standing committees of Parliament has been allowed, with the government contending that these are to be held in camera.
The Narendra Modi-Amit Shah combine has made the opposition 'immobile', an opposition leader said on condition of anonymity.
'The government has been resisting this (the meetings),' he added.
Several Congress leaders heading committees including Dr. Shashi Tharoor, and Mr. Anand Sharma have written to the Presiding officers asking that these meetings be allowed virtually and be held in camera like Prime Minister Narendra Modi, the Speaker and President of India Ram Nath Kovind have been doing.
The government has already been criticized for over-centralisation during the pandemic. Pointing out that the country is a democracy, opposition leaders maintain that the normal democratic functions be resumed, especially now that the government's focus is on slowly easing the lockdown restrictions.
As the countrywide lockdown over the virus was declared in March, most opposition parties, led by the Congress, had agreed that the need of the hour was supporting the government in its efforts to control the spread of the virus.
Over the last weeks, however, accusations and counter-accusations have been gathering pace as a number of states suspended labour laws, the government delayed financial assistance to states and the migrant issue generated huge controversy.
In UP, the Congress is at loggerheads with the Yogi Adityanath government over the supply of buses for migrant labourers left stranded. Even now, the 1000 buses remain caught in a bureaucratic wrangle, with helpless migrants still waiting.