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Manmohan Singh to head Congress’ 11-member Covid-19 panel

A member of the group, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said the panel will give suggestions to the government on both health and economic challenges arising out of the coronavirus pandemic.

Updated: Apr 19, 2020 07:38 IST

By Aurangzeb Naqshbandi, Hindustan Times New Delhi

Congress president Sonia Gandhi with party leader Rahul Gandhi and former prime minister Manmohan Singh in New Delhi. (ANI File)

Congress president Sonia Gandhi on Saturday constituted an 11-member consultative group under former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s leadership to deliberate on matters related to the Covid-19 pandemic and to formulate the party’s views on them.

The group also includes Rahul Gandhi, Randeep Singh Surjewala, KC Venugopal, P Chidambaram, Manish Tewari, Jairam Ramesh, Praveen Chakravarty, Gaurav Vallabh, Supriya Shrinate and Rohan Gupta. This is the first time Rahul Gandhi has become a member of a party panel since he stepped down as the Congress chief last year.

In a press release, the Congress said the consultative group will meet virtually daily.

A member of the group, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said the panel will give suggestions to the government on both health and economic challenges arising out of the pandemic. “Economic pandemic is even bigger than health pandemic. As Rahul Gandhi has said the Congress, as the opposition and the country’s oldest party, will continue to give its suggestions irrespective of whether the government accepts those or not,” he said.



The member said they are duty-bound to put in the public domain the challenges and the solutions. “It is deeply felt by many in the country that the government is doing very little in terms of laying down a roadmap for kick-starting the economy...”

He said the panel will hold consultations with chief ministers, former chief ministers, former Union ministers, Congress as well as non-Congress leaders and experts. “Apart from suggestions and solutions, the group will keep coming out with warnings to the government about the forthcoming challenges.”

He said Rahul Gandhi, in his press conference on Thursday, gave constructive suggestions and offered positive criticism. “He happens to be the leader, who is a rallying point for the party even though he may not hold any post. That is why he is there with Dr Manmohan Singh, and Chidambaram... this committee will be able to lay down a futuristic road map for the country.”

Both Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi have been interacting with Congress leaders from across the country through video-conferencing and urging them to play an active role in the fight against Covid-19. They have asked them to reach out to the highest number of people apart from assessing the work of the Centre and state governments in containing the pandemic.

The Congress has repeatedly sought the ramping up of Covid-19 testing and personal protection equipment for health workers. It has also urged the government to spell out steps it plans to take to mitigate the woes of migrant labourers and farmers waiting to harvest their crops.

Sonia Gandhi has written six letters to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, seeking relief for different sections and to suggest measures the government can take in dealing with the pandemic.

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