Congress leader Rahul Gandhi said today that the government needed to “give transparency” on an exit plan after the coronavirus lockdown due to end on May 17. He also said the country needed not just a “strong PM” but also “strong Chief Ministers”. The country would lose the coronavirus fight if it was restricted only to the PM’s Office, he said.
“If we keep this fight only in PMO, we will lose; PM must devolve power,” the Congress leader said in a video interaction with the media.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi, he said, had a style of working and that “may be effective” in other circumstances. “It may work for him, but when the country is facing such an unprecedented crisis, we don’t need just one strong PM… we need many, many strong leaders, strong CMs (Chief Ministers) and strong DMs (District Magistrates). We need a strong patriotic Indian leader at the panchayat level, district level, state level… we need to tackle the problem and finish it at a local level, not at the national level,” he said.
For example, the grading of red, orange and green had been done at the national level, but should have been done at the level of the DM as they have the most ground information, he said.
Mr Gandhi also “advised” PM Modi to talk to Chief Ministers more often, and as a colleague, not as a boss.
“We need to understand when they will open, what are the criteria, what are the boxes they need to check off. The government should spell out the criteria,” the Congress leader said.
“We simply cannot continue without providing support to people who are suffering because of the lockdown. A lockdown brings a psychological change. It is not an on-off switch. Currently, people are very scared of this disease, so we are going to have to make psychological changes in the minds of the people. The government, if it wants to open up, has to turn this fear into a sense of confidence,” Rahul Gandhi added.
To a question about the state of migrants stranded by the lockdown, either forced to survive without jobs, shelter, and food or walking hundreds of km with their families, Mr Gandhi said this was “not the time to criticize the government” on the crisis.
“Our supply chain and the health system of red, orange and green is clashing. The migrants and the poor need money immediately. The MSME need money immediately, otherwise the lack of jobs will become a tsunami,” said the Congress leader.
He was also asked about his new series of talks with experts like Raghuram Rajan and Abhijeet Banerjee on the economic fallout of the coronavirus pandemic and the lockdown.