In Cong’s team on Covid-19, Rahul Gandhi a member. Manmohan Singh heads it
The 11-member group also comprises former Congress chief Rahul Gandhi, party’s chief spokesperson Randeep Singh Surjewala, general secretary in-charge organisation KC Venugopal and former union ministers P Chidambaram, Manish Tewari and Jairam Ramesh.
Congress president Sonia Gandhi on Saturday constituted a consultative group, headed by former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, to deliberate on current matters related to the coronavirus outbreak and formulate the party’s views on various issues.
The 11-member group also comprises former Congress chief Rahul Gandhi, party’s chief spokesperson Randeep Singh Surjewala, who will also be its convenor, general secretary in-charge organisation KC Venugopal and former union ministers P Chidambaram, Manish Tewari and Jairam Ramesh.
This is for the first time after he stepped down as the Congress president on May 25 last year following the party’s drubbing in the 2019 Lok Sabha elections that Rahul Gandhi has become a member of a newly formed organisational panel.
Even after his resignation from the top post, he continued to be a member of the Congress Working Committee (CWC), the party’s highest decision-making body, the central election committee (CEC), a panel that selects candidates for any state or Lok Sabha polls, the election coordination committee and the group to look into future challenges.
Rahul Gandhi also held strategy meetings during the budget session of Parliament that concluded last month.
In a press release, the party said the consultative group will meet virtually, normally every day, to deliberate on matters of current concern and formulate views of the party on various issues.
The other members of the group are Praveen Chakravarty, Gaurav Vallabh, Supriya Shrinate and Rohan Gupta.
Explaining the functioning of the group, a member said on the condition of anonymity that the panel will give suggestions to the government on both health and economic challenges.
“Economic pandemic is even bigger than the health pandemic. As Rahul Gandhi had said that the Congress as the principal opposition and the country’s oldest political party will continue to give its suggestions; irrespective, if the government accepts those or not,” he said.
“We are duty bound to place in public domain the challenges and the solutions thereof in terms of way ahead. It is deeply felt by many many people in the country that the government is doing very little in terms of laying down a roadmap for kick-starting the economy and its strategy for economic recovery,” the member added.
He said the group will have wider consultations with chief ministers, former chief ministers, former union ministers, party leaders, 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,” the member said.
He said Rahul Gandhi’s press conference on Thursday laid down a blueprint for constructive suggestions and 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 with Dr Manmohan Singh, him and Chidambaram there, this committee will be able to lay down a futuristic roadmap for the country,” the member said.
Both Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi have been interacting with party leaders from across the country through video-conferencing, urging them to play an active role in the fight against the deadly Covid-19 by reaching out to maximum number of people in distress due to the nationwide lockdown apart from assessing the work of the Centre and state governments in containing the pandemic in their respective states.
The Congress has repeatedly demanded scaling up the testing and providing personal protection equipment (PPE) to doctors, nurses and health workers.
It has also urged the government to spell out steps it planned to take to mitigate the woes of migrant labourers stranded on the borders of different states and those of the farmers waiting to harvest crops.
The Congress has further demanded state-specific special economic packages and urged the Centre to clear all pending dues, including the GST, to states to enable them to fight the pandemic.
It said the government must ensure phased lifting of the lockdown and coordinate with states to mitigate the sufferings of the poor.
For her part, the Congress chief has written six letters to Prime Minister Narendra Modi since March 23, seeking relief for different sections and suggesting measures to the government in dealing with the coronavirus.
Addressing a news conference on Thursday through video-conferencing, Rahul Gandhi had said lockdown is not a solution to defeat Covid-19 but a pause button and stressed the need for having a comprehensive exit strategy in place to ensure that the coronavirus does not come back once the restrictions are lifted.
While seeking immediate release of money and resources to states to enable them to deal with the pandemic in a nuanced manner, Rahul Gandhi urged the government to manage its funding to enable the country to tide over the massive financial backlash due to coronavirus.
“One must keep in mind that do not use all our ammunition right now, because if you use all your ammunition right now, and we end up 2-3 months from now with a serious financial blowback. We have a real serious problem. So, it has to be thought through strategically. My advice is give out as much money to the poorest, weakest people as you can, but, keep in mind that there is going to be a financial backlash,” he added.