Leaders of 19 opposition parties in India participated in an online meeting on Friday to address alleged mismanagement by the central government headed by Prime Minister Narendra Modi. The virtual meeting, which was broadcast live, was convened by Indian National Congress (INC) President Sonia Gandhi and two top opposition leaders from across the country.
In addition to members of the INC, representatives from 18 opposition parties were present at the meeting. Chief ministers from four states were present, including Mamata Banerjee of West Bengal, MK Stalin of Tamil Nadu, Uddhav Thackeray of Maharashtra, and Hemant Soren of Jharkhand.
Congress President Sonia Gandhi in her opening statement remarked:
The recent Monsoon session of Parliament was a complete washout again entirely due to the Government’s obstinate and arrogant unwillingness to discuss and debate urgent issues of public importance. These include the Pegasus snooping scandal that affects each and every citizen…and the continuing assault on federalism and the institutions of our democracy.
Following the meeting, the opposition parties issued a joint statement in which they stated that they would work together to organise protests across the country from September 20 to September 30.
The opposition further condemned the manner in which the central government led by the Bhartiya Janata Party disrupted the monsoon session of the Parliament, refusing to address the allegations related to the Pegasus spyware and the government involvement therein. They collectively blamed the ruling party for massive mismanagement in the country’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic and vaccine administration that resulted in several hardships on people.
In light of these reasons, they put forth a list of 11 demands from the Central government of India. This included augmentation of vaccine administration in India; implementation of free cash transfers and distribution of free food kits to the needy; holding of an immediate Supreme Court monitored judicial enquiry into the use of the Pegasus spyware; release of all political prisoners incarcerated under the draconian Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, 1967 (UAPA); and release of all political prisoners in the union territory of Jammu and Kashmir.
Providing details of the above-mentioned protests, the opposition stated:
The forms of these public protest actions will be decided by the respective state units of our parties depending on the concrete conditions of the Covid regulations and protocols existing in the state. These forms, amongst others, may include dharnas, protest demonstrations, hartals etc.