The public meetings, protests, demonstrations or even membership drives have been stopped ever since Janta Curfew was observed on March 22.
The regular group meetings of the two parties are off for now.
However, much of the focus of the two biggest national parties has shifted towards carrying our relief works for the people who have been hit by the lockdown. The political programmes have been replaced by social service, particularly for the migrant workers and the needy.
Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)
Talking to the timesofindia.com, BJP national general secretary in charge of West Bengal, Kailash Vijayvargiya, informed that party president JP Nadda does eight to ten video calls every day to talk to party workers.
Vijayvargiya said, “For example, Nadda talks to national general secretaries at least every alternate day. He also talks to other office-bearers, members of different cells and departments such as lawyers, doctors, chartered accountants and other professionals, all the party MPs and MLAs from different states.”
He said normal political activities such as public meetings and rallies, membership drive, political demonstrations and protests have been called off. The main focus Nadda’s meetings with party functionaries is to chalk out strategies to ameliorate the condition of the migrant workers and other poor sections of the society. “For example, our party workers are helping the poor to get ration cards made,” he said.
On his political engagements, Vijayvargiya said even though he is in his hometown Indore since lockdown, he keeps talking to the MPs, MLAs, office-bearers and members of different cells and departments of West Bengal BJP regularly on video call.
“Besides the relief measures, we also discuss political programmes in West Bengal, which goes to polls next year. We decide about holding protests against the Mamata Banerjee government through slogans and placards at the booth level,” he said, adding that meetings are being held to inform the people about the Modi government’s achievements.
While carrying out all these activities, the party workers wear masks and maintain social distancing, Vijayvargiya said.
India’s principal opposition party has put a stop on all political activities.
A senior Congress functionary told timesofindia.com on the condition of anonymity that it was not the time for politics but to do something positive. “Politics can wait. It is the time bring relief to those who have been worst affected by the novel coronavirus pandemic,” he said.
He claimed that the state units of Congress are carrying out relief work on the ground and supporting the migrant workers by providing them food, water and shelter.
The senior functionary said political activity of a different nature was in progress. For example, the Haryana Congress contributed a cheque for Rs 40 lakh to Haryana chief minister ML Khattar earlier this week.
He said as far as top leadership is concerned, Congress president Sonia Gandhi has been holding meetings through video conferencing with leaders such as the party office-bearers, in-charges of departments, state unit chiefs and general secretaries on every alternate day.
Similarly, he said, former Congress president Rahul Gandhi has also been active during this lockdown period. He has already held three press conferences – two with Delhi journalists and one on Saturday with the regional correspondents.
Besides, he spoke with former RBI governor Raghuram Rajan and Nobel laureate Abhijit Banerjee over COVID-19, its impact on the economy and ways and means to salvage the situation.
On the economic front, Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi have written to the PM on ten separate occasions offering specific solutions and way ahead.
The senior functionary also said the party’s communication department has been working every day since Lockdown 1.0 on March 25. The communication group, led by former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh with Randeep Singh Surjewala as its convener and Rahul Gandhi, former Union ministers P Chidambaram and Manish Tewari as members, has also been active in organising press conferences and giving out information to the media.
On the role being played by the party rank and file during novel coronavirus outbreak, Surjewala said, “Congress and its cadre are playing a frontline constructive role by addressing and articulating COVID issues, espousing humanitarian challenges and offering critique-based solutions to the government as a responsible opposition party. As the principal opposition party, we believe that constructive support entails showing the mirror of truth to the powers that are.”
He said, “On the health front, Congress put out the ‘Test, Trace, Quarantine’ doctrine, bringing focus to inadequate testing facilities, unavailability of PPEs and N95 masks as also testing kits.”
He claimed that despite the government’s dilly-dallying, Congress rose to the occasion as Sonia Gandhi announced that its state units will pay for return train fare of migrant labourers.