Regional parties including NCP, SAD, CPI(M), CPI will not get chance to present opinions
Only parties with more than 10 members in Parliament will be allowed to speak at the all party meeting convened by Prime Minister Narendra Modi on December 4 on the COVID-19 pandemic and distribution of vaccines. Smaller parties have to be silent participants, party leaders have been informed.
The meeting was called after Mr. Modi’s visit on Saturday to three vaccine manufacturing facilities — Zydus in Ahmedabad, Serum Institute of India in Pune and Bharat Biotech in Hyderabad.
At earlier video conferences with Chief Ministers, too, the Prime Minister’s Office had drafted schedules to ensure that different States got to speak on different dates, instead of opting for an open discussion on issues.
The 10-MP cut-off will mean that many regional parties will not get an opportunity to air their opinions including Sharad Pawar’s Nationalist Congress Party, former BJP ally Shiromani Akali Dal, the Rashtriya Janata Dal, Chirag Paswan’s Lok Janshakti Party and the two Left parties — CPI (M) and CPI.
CPI parliamentary party leader Binoy Viswam has written a letter to Mr. Modi urging him to reconsider the decision. Mr Viswam said that in case the PMO finds it impossible to accommodate the smaller parties, he wants to put across his views on the subject. He pressed for increasing the testing facilities and also reducing the cost of RT-PCR tests across the country. Mr. Viswam also asked the Prime Minister to ensure that the Pradhan Mantri Garib Kalyan Yojana is extended till May 2021.
The NCP, which has five members in Lok Sabha and four in Rajya Sabha, falls short by one member to meet the PMO’s criteria.
“If a person like Sharad Pawar is not allowed to speak then I believe such a meeting will lack direction and clarity. And not only on vaccines, there is a need for thorough discussion of all fallouts of the pandemic including the state of the economy,” senior NCP leader Praful Patel said.
“This definitely is not the right way to go about. In our democracy if every vote matters, then every Member of Parliament and every political party should matter. The political strength may vary from election to election that should not be reason to curtail our participation,” TDP’s Lok Sabha Chief Whip K. Rammohan Naidu said.
Conceding that time constraints might have prompted the cut-off, senior Akali leader Naresh Gujral said, “After a while, points raised by the participants start getting repetitive.”
However, he added, “While COVID is an important issue, one would have hoped that the PMO would feel the need to hold consultations on the new farm laws which have led to a widespread protest.”