COVID-19 is a global crisis that has brought every single leader under the lens. Under normal circumstances, political reflexes of leaders can be spun around in a million ways, and are seen through multiple prisms of ideology and identity.
In times such as these, decisions and judgements made by politicians will only be seen by the constituents from the prism of survival.
Thus, whether it is the way Israel responded to the Haredim while implementing social distancing, or the way the Mayor of Brooklyn responded to the funeral of the Hasidic Rabbi and the subsequent controversy, or the way in which various stakeholders in India handled the Tablighi Jamaat issue, or the way the country of Georgia responded to the Patriarchate’s insistence on celebrating Orthodox Easter, using the communion spoon – our inherent bigotry or the absence of it gets displayed in the way groups and governments respond to deviance and defiance.
Fighting COVID in India: ‘Congress Party Has Risen to the Occasion’
India too has witnessed an unprecedented crisis over the last couple of months. A crisis that is not just ongoing, but is also unfolding itself and throwing new challenges. Every day brings a new test for the government, the media, the Opposition, and different institutions as also the society and the multiple constructs we have either chosen or are imposed on us.
I would not like to comment on the way India’s ruling eco-system conducted itself. Let history of these times be the judge of how the State dealt with its poor, its minorities and its marginalised.
As the country’s leading Opposition party that has also been in government for the larger part of our journey as an independent country, I can say with some satisfaction, and lots of humility, that the Congress Party has risen to the occasion in the way a responsible political party should, irrespective of whether it is in government or out of it.
In the course of the lockdown, the leadership of the Congress Party kept flagging its concerns either through letters written to the Prime Minister by Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi, or through tweets and posts by P Chidambaram, Priyanka Gandhi Vadra, Randeep Singh Surjewala, Manish Tewari, and others.
Whether it is the suggestion to provide liquidity to mutual funds, providing free ration to those who do not fall under the criteria of existing rules, giving immediate advance payment of wages for 21 days to registered MGNREGA, suspending the ambitious central vista beautification plan, direct cash transfer in Jan Dhan Accounts, seeking a package for the beleaguered MSME sector – the list of constructive suggestions offered by the Congress Party is long.
‘For Congress Party, Constructive Cooperation Comes Easy’
The UK’s Opposition, the Labour Party’s, Shadow Brexit Secretary Keir Starmer has sought an exit strategy from PM Boris Johnson. In the US, as per a study done by Quartz, the distinctive words being used by the Democrats in their political advertisements on Facebook are ‘Donald Trump’, ‘response’, ‘deadly’, ‘petition’, ‘lives’ – focusing on how Donald Trump’s response to the deadly disease has cost lives. The ruling Republican Party has used words or symbols like ‘our nation’, ‘community’, ‘stronger’, 💪, ‘President Trump’ – stressing the message that “our nation, our community – we are all in it together – and will emerge stronger under President Trump”.
If governments in Europe and later in India asked their people to clap for corona warriors, the Pentagon announced on 23 April, multiple flights by The Blue Angels and the Thunderbirds across the country as a tribute to corona warriors. Donald Trump calls it ‘Operation America Strong’.
Responding to the pandemic and its economic fallout, and also battling to consolidate their positions in this delicate hour, may be important for those in power.
For the Congress, with or without power, offering constructive cooperation comes easy. The sheer muscle memory and institutional wisdom of having successfully brought the country out of several crises, helps the Congress party and its cadre to first try and advice the government on how to handle a particular situation, and if that does not work, try and come to the rescue of people.
Expecting Poor Migrants to Pay Travel Fare Amid Crisis Is Criminally Insensitive
The issue of stranded migrant labour started at the beginning of Lockdown 1, in the last week of March. It continues to haunt our collective conscience in Lockdown 3, in the first week of May.
The Congress party kept drawing the attention of the ruling government to migrant labour who were desperate to go back to their villages for fear of uncertainty, hunger, penury.
The nation watched with indignation as workers walked hundreds of kilometres, some of them collapsing on the way. We advised the government to arrange for transportation for them. By the time some state governments decided to open some establishments, the Government of India came up with a decision to arrange for transportation for the migrant workers. However, expecting them to pay for the fare (as some reports claim) during crisis is nothing short of criminal insensitivity.
Now is not the time to indulge in any critique of the decision-makers. The Congress party has decided to come to the rescue.
(The writer is former political secretary to Sheila Dikshit, and is with the Congress party. He tweets @Pawankhera .This is an opinion piece and the views expressed are the author’s own. The Quint neither endorses nor is responsible for the same.)
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