Opposition plans to keep focus on economic slowdown, organise conclave

Former PM Manmohan Singh
To prevent what it suspects to be the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)'s intent to deflect public attention from economic slowdown, leading Opposition parties are in the process of drawing up plans, including joining forces on common platforms, to keep the heat on the issue.

The Congress is planning a conclave on the issue in October, to be attended not just by the likes of former prime minister Manmohan Singh and its other in-house economists, but it is also reaching out to some of the world renowned Indian economists to speak at the daylong session.

It has already announced countrywide protests from October 15 to 25, and conclaves and seminars in the states from September 28 to 30. The earlier schedule of holding conclaves from September 20 to 30 stands revised as the party felt the need for a shorter more cohesive plan given the funds crunch it currently faces, a senior party leader said.

The five Left parties on Monday announced a joint convention in the national capital on the issue on September 20. In a joint statement, these parties said they will discuss at the convention their plan to have national level “protest actions against deepening economic crisis and greater misery being imposed on the people, accompanied by a massive job loss”.

The Left parties said the recent slew of measures announced by Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman of over Rs 70,000 crore, far from providing relief, will only deepen the crisis further. “What is required is to increase public investments in a big way and build our much needed infrastructure while generating jobs and increasing the purchasing power in the hands of the people,” the Left parties said.

The Left parties said the convention will draw up concrete plans for protest actions all over the country. They have appealed to “all democratic forces, who are prepared to join these protest actions, to come forward and strengthen the people’s movement”.

Communist Party of India (Marxist) chief Sitaram Yechury has reached out to other opposition parties, particularly the Congress, to join forces on the issue of highlighting the “economic mess” the Narendra Modi government’s policies have purportedly caused.

The Left parties believe, their declining legislative strength notwithstanding, they still have more committed cadres on the ground to mount such protests. The two-pronged approach is to initially have all Left parties agree on a common programme, and then reach out to other opposition parties to join forces. Apart from the CPI (M), CPI, CPI (ML) Liberation, All India Forward block and Revolutionary Socialist Party will attend the meeting.

West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee, who also heads the Trinamool Congress, will be in the national capital on Tuesday. She is scheduled to meet Prime Minister Narnedra Modi, but could also meet some of the opposition leaders, especially Congress leaders.

Trade unions affiliated to opposition parties have announced strikes in the banking and coal sectors in the coming weeks.

On Monday, senior Congress leader Rajiv Shukla demanded an apology from union minister (independent charge) labour and employment Santosh Gangwar for his remarks that there was no lack of jobs but north Indians lacked requisite skills. Shukla said the government was busy insulting people instead of working to create jobs, and the minister's statement seemed a pretext to abdicate the government's responsibility.

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