In the past week, there has been unprecedented unity among the Opposition parties against the Centre’s demonetisation move. Over 200 MPs formed a human chain in Parliament on Wednesday and unlikely combinations have come to the fore. The Samajwadi Party and the Bahujan Samaj Party are standing together as a part of the same group; the Left and Trinamool Congress (TMC) may not be directly collaborating but have found an unlikely point of convergence.
Even the DMK and AIADMK came together. The Opposition has also announced they would observe a protest day - Jana Aakrosh Diwas- on November 28. Several parties, led by TMC chief and West Bengal CM Mamata Banerjee, walked to Rashtrapati Bhawan to lodge their protest last week and sat on dharna at Jantar Mantar. Ms Banerjee and Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal addressed public meetings in Delhi. This is a remarkable coming together of political forces, and carries more than a hint of future possibilities. A strong Opposition is also good for democracy. They represent a political constituency, a large section of the electorate and society and their voice must be heard and respected.
But what is still not clear is what the Opposition is asking for. It is one thing to oppose demonetisation. But it is another to have a more thoughtful, constructive agenda. The Opposition has been found wanting on this count. Some - especially TMC and AAP - have demanded a rollback of the decision. Given Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s personal commitment to the policy agenda, this looks almost impossible. It may also be unwise because it could lead to further economic chaos and unpredictability.
The Congress has led the demand for a Joint Parliamentary Committee to enquire into the decision, whether it was leaked - this is a legitimate demand, but again, it is unlikely to be met. Others have pointed out that the decision has caused and continues to cause mass hardship.
This is indeed true and the one that concerns the people the most. It would be more productive if the Opposition could now offer a set of policy proposals, and frame its demands in a manner which would reduce this hardship. What can be done to enhance cash supply in the immediate term? What are the risks that come with the contraction of the economy, and how can it be managed? What should be done to provide relief to rural areas?
This is primarily the government’s responsibility but pushing the ruling combine to deliver on this would help people at large. The Opposition is united. It now needs to be more coherent, clear about its demands, and those demands must go beyond scoring political points.