The Centre’s demonetisation exercise has brought a rarely seen unity among opposition parties in Parliament, but they appear divided over the way they will protest against the measure on Monday.
The Left Front is intent on making its 12-hour West Bengal bandh to protest the scrapping of high-value banknotes a success, while the Trinamool Congress-led state government has vowed to foil it.
The state finance department has issued a circular stating that all employees would be required to attend office on Monday and Tuesday, and exceptions would be made only in case of bereavement, maternity leave, hospitalisation and other ‘genuine reasons’.
However, chief minister Mamata Banerjee said, “We oppose bandhs. We will take out a protest march (against demonetisation) on Monday.”
Over 3,000 police personnel would be deployed in the metropolis on Monday to tackle any untoward incident, said Supratim Sarkar, Kolkata police additional commissioner of police (III).
Justifying the shutdown, Left Front chairman Biman Bose has said the strike call was necessary to register protest against demonetisation, which has caused sufferings to the people.
State Congress chief Adhir Chowdhury said his party would extend moral support to the strike called by the Left parties, with which it had allied during the last assembly elections.
In Kerala, ruling Left Democratic Front (LDF) has called a dawn-to-dusk shutdown to denounce demonetisation, which has virtually crippled the thriving co-operative sector in the state.
Last week the state assembly had passed a resolution and decided to send an all-party delegation to Delhi. But the meet was called off after the delegation failed to get an appointment with the Prime Minister.
Though the opposition Congress-led UDF had supported the resolution, it is not supporting the shutdown. The BJP has termed the shutdown political drama.
In Tripura, the opposition parties would oppose the strike called by the Left Front. The BJP campaigned throughout the state on Sunday and pitched the merits of demonetisation, while appealing to people to make the strike unsuccessful.
The JD(U) decided not to participate in the protests on Monday or the West Bengal CM’s proposed dharna in Patna on November 30 because its leader and Bihar chief minister Nitish Kumar has welcomed the demonetisation decision.
“We have supported the Centre’s demonetisation move. How can we oppose or be the part of activity like bandh which is meant to protest the issue which our party has strongly supported,” said Bihar unit JD(U) president Bashishtha Narayan Singh.
In Tamil Nadu, protests will largely be conducted by the DMK, as well as the CPI, CPI (M) and the Congress. DMK leader M Karunanidhi issued a statement saying that the Dravidian major plans to protest “outside central government offices in all districts of Tamil Nadu”.
Incidentally, the ruling AIADMK — whose leader, chief minister Jayalalithaa, is yet to make a statement on the demonetisation scheme — has decided to join the nationwide protest.
While the CM is yet to comment personally, AIADMK Rajya Sabha member A Navaneethakrishnan said the party was opposing the implementation of demonetisation because “it is causing inconvenience to rural people”.
In Assam, Congress workers have scheduled a protest rally at Guwahati’s iconic Dighalipukhuri area at 11am. The protest call against demonetisation is not expected to have any impact in Arunachal Pradesh and Nagaland, both ruled by BJP allies, and it makes no difference for Manipur, already experiencing an economic blockade for weeks.
Odisha’s ruling BJD will also not join the protests, with its leader and chief minister Naveen Patnaik having hailed the demonetisation decision. The Congress and five Left parties have lined up separate demonstrations across the state.
The opposition parties have been divided over the ways to protest demonetisation ever since Banerjee decided to march to the President’s House over the issue. While she was joined by the AAP, National Conference and the Shiv Sena, an NDA ally, other opposition parties stayed away.
The Shiv Sena has backed demonetisation, but is unhappy over the way it is causing problems to people.
(With inputs from Kolkata, Thiruvananthapuram, Agartala, Patna, Chennai, Guwahati, Bhubaneswar )