A largely united Opposition is looking to pressure the government into rolling back the demonetisation, even as people’s patience wears thin in waiting hours outside banks and ATM kiosks to withdraw money.
On Monday, the Trinamool Congress (TMC) chief and West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee was on a war footing to cobble together an ambitious united front against the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) government, apparently willing to sidestep temporarily a deep-seated rivalry with the CPI(M) for a joint campaign on a “pro-people” issue.
“The PM in his speech said that the poor are sleeping peacefully. This is an insult to commoners and in bad taste. My humble suggestion is not to hit the common people like this,” the TMC supremo said in a series of tweets after Prime Minister Narendra Modi justified the demonetisation move in Ghazipur.
Banerjee said while the masses were being victimised and crushed under the weight of demonetisation, many economists are now predicting the onset of recession.
“This will be a killer for the common people. Already a staggering Rs 1.5 lakh crore of GDP has been lost by the economy in only six days,” she said in a statement.
Sources said Banerjee was trying to communicate with leaders of “all Opposition parties”, including Samajwadi Party patriarch Mulayam Singh Yadav, Rashtriya Janata Dal chief Lalu Prasad and CPI(M) general secretary Sitaram Yechury.
On his part, Yechury sought to pick holes in the government’s move, claiming that its stated objectives will not be achieved with the steps taken, urging the government to allow old currency notes “for public and state utility till December 31 to give some relief to the people”.
He also alleged that Modi knows the name of the people who have stashed 90% of the black money abroad, but is still not making them public.
“No one carries bags to fund terrorism; it is more via online transfers. Nobody is accepting this new currency. So, what is the use of introducing them?” he said.
However, the CPI(M) remained non-committal on Mamata’s offer to join hands, saying it would wait to know the government’s stand in Parliament and see “who stands where” on the issue.
Aam Aadmi Party convenor and Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal demanded immediate scrapping of the demonetisation scheme.
“Traders are complaining how to continue business for 50 days with Rs 24,000 per week cap on withdrawal,” Kejriwal said after an emergency cabinet meet at his residence. “People are not ready to give 50 days to PM Modi, he needs to find a way or there is a threat of serious law and order situation.”
Describing the Centre’s move to demonetise high-value currency notes as an “economic emergency”, Bahujan Samaj Party supremo Mayawati said Modi should stop “emotionally blackmailing” people who were facing hardships due to his decision.
“It is good that Modiji has left his family and village for the country but that does not mean that he would take immature decisions which are against the public interest and stick to them,” she said in a statement.
The Prime Minister had surprised everyone last week by announcing that Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 banknotes — which constitute 86% of the total currency in circulation — would no longer be legal tender from November 9 in the government’s effort to curb black money and corruption.
The ensuing 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, which begins on Wednesday.