‘It might not be a happy new year for Opposition unity.’
The Janata Dal (United) and the Communist Party of India (Marxist) — two key forces in the Opposition camp — have pulled out of a proposed meeting and press conference organised by the Congress to collectively take on Prime Minister Narendra Modi over the scrapping of high-value currency.
The Congress’ erstwhile ally Nationalist Congress Party has also ruled out participation and the Samajwadi Party’s presence is doubtful.
At a press conference in Kolkata on Monday, CPI(M) general secretary Sitaram Yechury maintained they were not consulted on the date of the events while JD(U) leader KC Tyagi said, “We were not sounded out; we don’t know what the agenda is. There is no common minimum programme. So how can we participate?”
In the proposed joint press conference scheduled for Tuesday, the Congress plans to focus on two issues: party vice-president Rahul Gandhi’s allegations of corruption against Modi and the plight of the common people who have been hurt by the recall of `500 and `1,000 notes.
The press conference was also aimed to showcase a unified Opposition after these parties worked together to almost wash out Parliament’s winter session.
The Congress, however, downplayed the decisions of key Opposition parties to skip the event.
“Whoever comes tomorrow will come. Those who don’t come tomorrow will come the next time. Those who will come, you will see tomorrow,” said Congress leader Jairam Ramesh in a philosophical note, pointing out that some parties have “local and regional compulsions”.
But JD(U) and Left’s absence may take the sheen out of the Opposition meet. JD(U) and the Congress are allies in the Bihar government and the Left had an unwritten pact with Sonia Gandhi’s party in the assembly polls in West Bengal earlier this year.
The Congress’ biggest gain is the presence of West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee who has flown down from Kolkata for the joint press conference. Banerjee, a vocal opponent of demonetisation, wants to hit out at Modi once again from Delhi. She also sees a chance to edge out the Left from this non-BJP union. While Ramesh dismissed suggestions that the meeting is like the tea party in 2003 that led to the formation of the UPA and the ouster of the Atal Behari Vajpayee government, he said, “The biggest issue today is demonetisation and the second issue is corruption by the prime minister, which will be the main issues before tomorrow’s meet.”
While other Opposition parties are reluctant to join the Congress’ programme, they have chalked out their protest plans over the same issue of demonetisation.