The all-party meeting chaired by Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Friday to discuss the COVID-19 vaccine strategy saw Opposition party leaders re-emphasising the need for the government to take urgent measures to bring the economy back on track and demanding additional financial help.
Several parties flagged the GST dues that the Central government owed States and sought additional financial help to meet the revenue shortfall that many States are facing due to COVID-19 pandemic.
According to sources, the Shiv Sena, represented by Lok Sabha MP Vinayak Raut, forcefully argued that the GST collection by the Central government was more than ₹1 lakh crore and there was no reason to withhold the share of the State governments.
TMC leader Sudip Bandhopadhyay too emphasised there was a need for additional financial help for the State governments, considering the financial stress they were going through.
Telangana Rashtra Samithi MP Namma Nageshwar Rao also spoke on similar lines. Sources said that, among other demands, Mr. Rao wanted the government to provide vaccine free of cost. The Central government, he said, should ensure that cold storage units are set up across the country for easy transport of the vaccine.
Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam Lok Sabha floor leader T.R. Baalu was the only one among 13 Opposition and NDA allies who raised the issue of the ongoing farmers’ agitation. Sources said that at the end of the speech when Mr. Baalu raised the issue, Parliamentary Affairs Minister Prahalad Joshi interrupted and told him to stick to the topic. The DMK leader, sources said, retorted that for the last 10 days the farmers had been on the road and should not be ignored. The two had a heated exchange. Sources said Mr. Baalu’s microphone was muted as the meeting went ahead.
Only a select few parties with 10 or more MPs were allowed to speak during the meeting. CPI(M) Parliamentary Party leader Elamaram Kareem wrote a letter to the PM since he could not speak at the meeting. He flagged the ‘continuous contraction’ of the GDP and said that the economic stimulus package provided by the government was inadequate. “These packages without any significant hikes in government expenditures or direct cash transfers to the people won’t be able to revive the economy,” he wrote.