NEW DELHI: In a direct barb aimed at Prime Minister Narendra Modi, former Congress president Rahul Gandhi on Tuesday raised the issue of non-decentralisation of power amid the Covid-19 crisis to Nobel laureate Abhijeet Banerjee, who said there is a misconception that strong leaders can fight the virus better, as the US and Brazil have evidently messed it up.
"That has been disastrous. The US and Brazil are two countries that are messing up right and left. These are two strongmen behaving like.. pretending like... they understand anything.. but even what they say every day is kind of laughable.
"If anyone wanted to believe in the strongman theory, this is the time to dissuade themselves," Banerjee told Gandhi during a conversation on the economic fallout of the COVID-19 crisis as part of a series of discussion with experts.
The professor was replying to a query "What is being sold is that it requires one man to charge in against the virus" underlying undercurrent is that strong leaders can take on this virus. This question is considered a direct barb against Prime Minister Narendra Modi whom the Congress has accused of ignoring the suggestions made by the opposition. The supporters of the Prime Minister consider him a strong leader who takes tough decisions, including the announcement of the lockdown. The Congress is alleging that the Prime Minister himself takes decisions and there is no decentralisation of powers and states are not taken into confidence.
When asked by Rahul on the decentralisation, Banerjee replied, "This is a tension and clearly the migrant movement question cannot be handled by a state government. It is a bit odd that it is being handled so much bilaterally. In a sense, I feel like that is a problem."
He said that the issue of migrants should be dealt by the Union Government.
"This is a place where you don't want to decentralise because you want to actually aggregate the information. If this is a population of people who were very infected, you don't want them to be moving through the whole country.
"I feel this is a place where we should have tested people where they are allowed to board a train or something. That is a central question, and something that only a federal government can do. Tell the government of Uttar Pradesh that you cannot just bring your migrants home."