Ahead of Monday’s nationwide shutdown called by Left outfits to protest demonetisation, the Congress and other parties distanced themselves from the Bharat Bandh but insisted they would hold protests across the country.
Breaking ranks, Bihar chief minister and Janata Dal (United) president Nitish Kumar has decided to stay away from the “Janaakrosh Divas”.
Kumar has supported Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s move to ban Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 banknotes, saying it would help fight black money. The Bihar CM’s stand has earned him praise from BJP chief Amit Shah.
The Congress has clarified it did not call for a shutdown but would hold protests around the country. The main opposition party has accused the BJP of “spreading misinformation” on the strike call.
Modi had on Sunday slammed the Opposition for its bandh call, saying the country instead needed to put a stop, or bandh, to menaces like black money.
West Bengal chief minister and Trinamool Congress chief Mamata Banerjee, who has been at the forefront of opposing the currency switch, too, has spoken against the Left-sponsored strike.
The JD(U) will also not join Banerjee’s sit-in protest in Patna on November 3.
But Kumar dismissed reports of confusion in the grand alliance in Bihar due to divergent views of alliance partners the Congress and the Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) on the recall of high-value notes.
JD(U) leaders have also rubbished the speculation that Kumar’s stand indicated the coming together of their party and the BJP.
“We have taken an ideological position in favour of demonetisation so how can we be part of any agitation seeking its rollback,” JD(U) leader KC Tyagi said.
The Congress tried to downplay its ally’s distancing itself from the protests, saying the JD(U) leader Sharad Yadav was supporting the protests.
Kumar had walked out of the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance in the run-up to the 2014 Lok Sabha elections, protesting the alliance partner’s choice of Modi as its prime ministerial candidate.
Union minister M Venkaiah Naidu attacked the Congress for its protest plan. “Congress is clearly rattled by certain transformational results,” he said.
“Realising the popular support to remonetisation, it is now calling its countrywide bandh ‘aakrosh’ rallies. From this, it is clear that all of this is aimed at finding some space in the media as it has clearly lost its space at the debating forum of Parliament and in the minds of the people,” Naidu said.
The opposition has launched an offensive against the government, accusing it of unleashing financial anarchy.
Former prime minister and Congress leader Manmohan Singh has termed as a “monumental management failure” the implementation of the currency switch. He said demonetisation was “organised loot and legalised plunder” that could see India’s growth dip by two percentage points.