With a focus on the COVID-19 vaccine distribution strategy, Prime Minister Narendra Modi will on Friday chair an all-party meeting that will be attended by at least 30 floor leaders from close to 19 parties that have representatives in the Parliament.
Sources told CNN-News18 that about 12 leaders whose parties have more than five MPs in Parliament would be allowed to speak. The list of confirmed speakers includes Ghulam Nabi Azad, Sudip Bandyopadhyay, Sharad Pawar, Nama Nageswara Rao, Vinayak Raut, Vijay Sai Reddy, Navaneethakrishnan, Chandrashekhar Sahu Ram Gopal Yadav and TR Baalu.
Given that several countries across the world are on the verge of starting the vaccination drive, leaders attending the meeting would want to know about India’s plans for the same.
The Congress is expected to ask Modi to elaborate on the priority list for the vaccine as far as vaccination drive goes, the sources said.
The TMC wants to know about the process of the distribution chain and if it will be a smooth one. Party’s parliamentary leader Sudip bandyopadhyay told CNN-News 18, “Like everybody else, we are interested in knowing when the vaccine will come. I will raise the issue of the lack of quorum in standing committee meetings and whether we should revisit the option of going virtual in parliament meetings.”
“The vaccination drive for TB and polio was a long drawn battle. We would like the government to tell us how it will ensure the vaccine availability for the common man and whether or not the vaccine which is being developed in such a short-term would indeed be an effective one,” said Shiv Sena Loksabha floor leader Vinayak Raut.
The TRS plans to raise the issue of lack of funds for the state government and the dues from the Centre. Nama Nageswara Rao, who will speak on behalf of his party, said, “The Bharatiya Janata Party has made promises of free vaccine not only in Bihar but also during the municipal Elections in Hyderabad. We would like to ask the Prime Minister if there will be something called as ‘free vaccine’.”
Several opposition parties like the Samajwadi Party, DMK, NCP and the Left want Modi to reflect on how the government will ensure the smooth and transparent vaccination drive. Some of these parties are wary that the ruling NDA government led by BJP may use the drive as a political tool in the run up to crucial state elections in Assam, Bengal, Tamil Nadu and Kerala.
A team of Parliamentary affairs ministers Prahlad Joshi, Arjun Ram Meghwal and V Muraleedharan have coordinated with various floor leaders for the Friday meeting.
Keeping the time restrictions in mind, not all parties would be allowed to speak and the MPs these parties would be encouraged to give their concerns and suggestions in writing.
The Congress will be represented by Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury and Ghulam Nabi Azad. The Trinamool Congress will send Derek O’Brien and Sudip Bandyopadhyay as its representatives, and Vijay Sai Reddy and Midhun Reddy will be present from the YSR Congress Party. Senior politicians Sharad Pawar and HD Deve Gowda will represent Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) and Janata Dal (Secular), respectively. MPs TR Baalu and Trichy Siva of the DMK and Ramgopal Yadav of the Samajwadi Party will also take part in the talks.
Chandrashekhar Sahu (Biju Janata Dal), Nama Nageswara Rao and K Keshava Rao (Telanagana Rashtra Samithi), Prem Chandra Gupta (Rashtriya Janata Dal), Jaidev Galla (Telugu Desam Party) Imtiaz Jaleel (AIMIM) and Sanjay Singh (Aam Aadmi Party) will also take part in the meeting.
The meeting comes a week after Modi visited the three vaccine developing facilities in Hyderabad, Pune and Ahmedabad, and held a meeting via video conferencing with three other developers.