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PM Modi calls up Sonia Gandhi, other party heads to put up united fight against coronavirus

NEW DELHI: Aiming to plug all communication gaps as the country is facing its gravest challenge in decades, Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Sunday reached out to former Presidents of India and leaders of various political parties, including a rare outreach to Congress chief Sonia Gandhi. Since the coronavirus pandemic has created a national crisis, Modi appears to be keen that the country puts up a united fight against the pandemic.

Sources said he spoke to former Presidents Pratibha Patil and Pranab Mukherjee and then reached out to his predecessors Manmohan Singh and H D Deve Gowda. “The PM also spoke to Sonia Gandhi (Congress), Mulayam Singh Yadav and Akhilesh Yadav (SP), Mamata Banerjee (Trinamool), Navin Patnaik (BJD), K Chandrashekar Rao (TRS), Edappadi K Palaniswami (AIADMK), M K Stalin (DMK), Parkash Singh Badal (Shiromani Akali Dal),” said a senior government official.

Deve Gowda claimed the PM sought his support during the phone call. “As a former prime minister, I agreed to cooperate in the fight against #Coronavirus that has devastated not only our country but also the whole world,” he tweeted.“Hon PM @narendramodi invited me over phone to participate in the all-party meeting on April 8 on behalf of the AIADMK,” the TN chief minister later tweeted.

While officials termed the outreach to Sonia as a first of its kind under such circumstances, sources said Modi is keen that all political parties make a bipartisan effort to deal with the situation. “The PM has been clear from the beginning that communication is the key to containing the virus. That was why he reached out to SAARC countries despite knowing that Pakistan will misuse the forum. The next few days are going to be crucial for which he has sought wider consultations,” said another senior official.

The Congress has been unsparing in its attack on Modi for allegedly not taking timely action during the initial days of the COVID-19 outbreak in Wuhan, China. While Rahul Gandhi and P Chidambaram kept up a barrage of criticism, Sonia Gandhi accused the government of going in for an unplanned lockdown. Officials recalled that previously, former Union minister Arun Jaitely used to speak to Sonia at times of Parliamentary gridlock.

“This is no time for politics. Barring a few, most of the political parties are focused on meeting the challenges. The PM is listening to all. There must be a national response to Covid-19,” said a senior BJP functionary.

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