The Congress has called a meeting of like-minded opposition parties on Friday to discuss the plight of migrants and the changes in labour laws brought in by some states, sources said. Interim Congress President Sonia Gandhi will chair the meeting. This is among several initiatives taken by Gandhi since the Covid-19 crisis broke out.
So far, 17 parties have agreed to take part in the meeting via video-conferencing, but the SP and the BSP are yet to confirm their attendance.
Although the Congress had pledged support to the Narendra Modi government in the face of the unprecedented health crisis the country was facing, a few weeks ago, the party president set up a panel to critique the government’s handling of the crisis. Since then, the Congress has been scathing in its criticism of the stimulus, the handling of the migrants issue, and the fine print of the sectoral sops announced to deal with joblessness and livelihood.
These changes include exempting industrial units from labour welfare statutes, allowing them to take steps such as increasing daily and weekly working hours, and depriving workers of their right to move court.
But whether this will be a unified Opposition confronting the government is the big question. Trinamool Congress chief Mamata Banerjee’s antipathy to the Congress is well known. Odisha Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik has sided with the national Opposition only on state issues, largely supporting the BJP on national matters. Telangana Chief Minister K Chandrashekar Rao has supported, and even tried to craft, a non-Congress Opposition.
The last meeting called by Sonia Gandhi at the beginning of the year was not attended by the TMC and BSP. The TMC’s distrust of the Congress’s affection and proximity to the Left parties was one reason. The initiative was taken around the controversy over the National Register of Citizens and even the Shiv Sena, which is an ally of the Congress in Maharashtra, and the Aam Aadmi Party did not turn up.
Congress sources say the meeting is on the issue of migrants that concerns everyone. Unity on this issue could lead to forging a broader political unity.