INTERVIEW| PM Modi needs to talk about 'Kaam ki baat': Congress leader Mallikarjuna Kharge

Leader of Opposition in the Rajya Sabha Mallikarjuna Kharge talks about the government's failure in handling the COVID crisis and the need for sops for the poor.
Senior Congress leader Mallikarjuna Kharge (File Photo | PTI)
Senior Congress leader Mallikarjuna Kharge (File Photo | PTI)

BENGALURU: Leader of Opposition in the Rajya Sabha Mallikarjuna Kharge speaks about the Central government faltering on the COVID front and why doles are necessary to the poor at this time:

On March 17, 2021, in a COVID review meeting with Chief Ministers, Prime Minister Narendra Modi had warned about the second wave in India, when we had only 30,000 new cases per day. Despite this, did the Centre falter on planning?

Yes, they failed to plan and organise themselves. Former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, Congress Chairperson Sonia Gandhi and myself have written letters offering suggestions, but instead of taking suggestions, they have criticised us.

A man whose abilities as a doctor are suspect, replied to Manmohan Singh, someone else replied to me, nobody replied to Mrs Sonia Gandhi. Let us remember the Congress got 11 crore votes, while they got 19 crore votes, and they are not interested in our suggestions. There is no scope for discussion in this government.

There is a serious vaccine shortage, they announce vaccines for 18-45 age group, but are not able to achieve it, they are unable to provide second dose of vaccine for the 45-60 age category, there is severe shortage of medicines, ICU beds, and thousands are dying.

Instead of Mann ki Baat, the PM needs to talk about 'Kaam ki baat'. It is loud and clear that they faltered on planning, and what’s worse, they are too arrogant to listen to anyone, as the replies to our letters indicate.

The Congress has said people should be given Rs 10,000. Isn't this a burden on the exchequer?

Should people die of starvation? Is money more important than people? Should you save money or people? I would say we should give money to the poor and marginalised to tide over this crisis, because many have lost their livelihood and jobs, especially daily wage labourers.

We have our trained workforce, the government has invested so much to train them as doctors and engineers, what happens if they die because there are no jobs? Isn’t it a loss for the nation? Look at the condition of migrant workers. There has to be some provision to help the poor.

There has been an uproar over Youth Congress National President BV Srinivas, who was questioned by Delhi Police.

Srinivas was doing an excellent job, serving people during the COVID crisis. The government will not tolerate that. It is Youth Congress volunteers who are working on the direction of former party president Rahul Gandhi.

They are trying to stop our volunteers and demoralise them. They want to know who has given the money and resources for oxygen and other help we are providing. Now some donors prefer to remain anonymous, this is an effort to expose them and try to embarrass them.

There have been complaints that NGOs have been stopped from distributing oxygen concentrators...

In any crisis, everyone steps in to help. While the government has not done its bit, it doesn’t want others to help either. They are concerned that NGOs should not take the credit for help received by people.

Your party has said it will chip in with Rs 100 crore?

Yes, our MLAs will offer this amount from Local Area Development grants. Each MLA is entitled to spend a certain sum of money for development, and they are putting together this amount from those funds.

At the Working Committee meeting, Sonia Gandhi asked Congressmen to do this. These are difficult days and we need to do our bit to help.

What would you have done differently if your government was in power?

Our party has a consultative democratic process. Because we consulted so much, some criticised our government as weak. We inherently believe in participation of all, we are not dictatorial. There was an interesting article recently about what Nehru would have done in this situation.

Remember we took everyone along. In 1971, because of the war, Indira Gandhi was praised by BJP leader Atal Behari Vajpayee simply because everyone was consulted and united in tackling problems.

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