The battle lines are drawn, and the Centre and the Opposition are set to clash in the winter session of Parliament over the demonetisation of Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 banknotes.
The session will start on Wednesday and continue till December 16.
The government’s key agenda — passage of financial reforms of the goods and services tax — could face stiff competition for time as its drive against black money threatens to disrupt Parliament.
The Opposition has mounted pressure on the government, while people’s patience wore thin as they waited in long queues for hours outside banks and ATM kiosks to withdraw money after 86% of the total currency in circulation by value was scrapped from November 9.
Trinamool Congress chief Mamata Banerjee spoke to Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi on Sunday evening to ensure a united Opposition against the demonetisation drive. Banerjee also spoke to Rashtriya Janata Dal chief Lalu Prasad, CPI(M) boss Sitaram Yechury and her Delhi counterpart Arvind Kejriwal.
The chaos, which the government promised will go away in about a month, has given the BJP’s rivals a platform to unite before Parliament’s winter session.
West Bengal chief minister Banerjee is looking at an ambitious front comprising the Trinamool, Samajwadi Party, AAP, RJD and the Left parties to demand a rollback. The plan is to corner the government over the plight of the people.
The face-off is also expected to dominate the all-party meeting on Monday evening, when Prime Minister Narendra Modi will meet leaders from across the political spectrum.
Trinamool’s Derek O’Brien and Congress’s Anand Sharma have already served notices for discussions on demonetisation on the floor of the House.
If the united Opposition decides to create chaos in Parliament, it might be too difficult for the National Democratic Alliance government to pass the GST Bill during the winter session.
The only silver lining for the government is the BJD and JD(U) have not joined the Opposition ranks. “We have supported the demonetisation drive,” said BJD’s Lok Sabha floor leader Bhartruhari Mahtab.
Sources in the government say there is little chance of a rollback of the decision to scrap the Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 banknotes.
In an impassioned speech on Sunday, Modi had asked people to give him 50 days to sort out the glitches, saying he left his home and family to serve the nation.
President Pranab Mukherjee has also publicly supported the government’s move and appealed to the people not to panic.