The second edition of interim Congress president Sonia Gandhi’s meeting with chief ministers of party-ruled states has many stories to tell and important cues.
It is clear that she now wants to make COVID-19 the launching plank of sorts of for the Congress party. And, in many ways it is the return of Manmohan Singh as the trump card.
Like many other countries, India is staring at serious economic implications post the lockdown and the grand old party wants to put its best foot forward to offer an economic alternative if not a political one as yet.
Punjab, in fact, is the first and only Congress-ruled state to send this message after its CM Amarinder Singh roped in the former prime minister for advice on steps that can be taken for economic recovery.
Need for more avenues of revenue is of the problems confronting the state governments. Opposition-ruled states worry that priority for central assistance may go to BJP-ruled states or those with which the Centre has a good working equation like Delhi and Odisha.
So the pressure is on state governments. For Punjab, the shortfall, according to its CM is at 88%.
During a meeting with Sonia, Amarinder Singh said that Delhi cannot decide on demarcation of zones. The zones are an important yardstick to decide the range of economic activities.
Similar figures were given by other CMs as well like Bhupesh Baghel and Ashok Gehlot. They told Sonia and Singh that it is difficult to help their people if the Centre doesn’t help them.
Sources say that a blueprint of sorts has been prepared specially by the COVID-19 consultative committee set up by Sonia. The committee is headed by the former PM and also has ex-finance minister P Chidambaram and senior party leader Rahul Gandhi among others.
The committee has worked on a plan for the Congress stats which will look at revenue-generating operations. Insistence on opening of liquor vends is one such area.
In fact, in an attempt to balance health and economy, the Punjab CM has decided to begin home delivery of liquor. This to ensure that there are no long lines and yet no giving up on revenues.
Sources say the committee will ask for money from the Centre for farming activities and opening of small industries and will try to bring in investment directly from abroad via sops.
It was the same Sonia-Manmohan team that had come up with the farm loan waiver scheme which helped it come back to power in 2014. The party veterans hope to use this winning combo once again.