In a rare display of unity, opposition parties joined hands on Monday to corner Prime Minister Narendra Modi in Parliament over the Centre’s demonetisation move.
The Congress, Janata Dal (United), Trinamool Congress, Rashtriya Janata Dal, Left parties and YSR Congress huddled to chalk out a strategy for the winter session that begins this Wednesday and continues till December 16.
Their grounds for opposing the demonetisation is that it has led to economic anarchy and miseries for the common man.
All parties agreed to attack the government, but did not reach a consensus on West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee’s proposal to hand over a protest memorandum to President Pranab Mukherjee.
“The Congress, Left and the JD(U) are of the opinion that a momentum should be built first inside Parliament for at least a week and then meet the President. (But) our party chief has already sought time from the President on 16 or 17 November,” said a Trinamool party member.
The Opposition has decided to adopt a two-pronged attack on the ruling side: plight and harassment of the common people due to government’s inefficient mechanism to deal with the cash crisis, and how the BJP had prior information about the ban as its Bengal unit deposited large sums of money hours before the PM’s announcement on November 8.
“There is a broad consensus on several issues,” said Anand Sharma, Congress’ deputy leader in Rajya Sabha.
The parties will meet again on Tuesday but its is unlikely that a united delegation will go to the President’s house this time.
“We will meet the President anyway. Mamata Banerjee is coming to Delhi on Tuesday evening,” a Trinamool leader said.
The demonetisation has helped Opposition parties stitch a rare pact since last March when Congress president Sonia Gandhi led 14 parties in a march to Rashtrapati Bhavan to protest against the “anti-farmer” land bill.
Given the animosity, the government’s key agenda for this session — to pass the financial reform of the goods and service tax (GST) — faces uncertainty over the other financial measure to drive out black money. If a united Opposition decides to create chaos in the Houses, it may be difficult for the NDA government to pass the GST bill in the winter session of Parliament.
Sources said that two different protest plans have been drawn in the meeting for Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha. “The plans are based on the strength of the Opposition in the respective house,” said a Left leader.
Mamata, who is also the Trinamool Congress chief, spoke to Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi on Sunday evening to ensure the Opposition presented a unified front. Banerjee has also spoken to RJD chief Lalu Prasad, CPI(M) boss Sitaram Yechury, and her Delhi counterpart, Arvind Kejriwal.
The only silver lining for the government vis-à-vis the Opposition is the that BJD and JD(U) have not joined this coalition. “We have supported the demonetisation drive,” said BJD’s Lok Sabha floor leader, Bhartruhari Mahtab.
People have been struggling to get liquid cash since Modi’s surprise announcement last week effectively rendered Rs 1000 and 500 notes of no value. In the past six days, scenes of chaos became common across cities where long queues outside banks, post offices and ATMs clogged roads. In many cases, despite waiting for more than an hour, people came away without being able to exchange or withdraw money.
In the face of public ire, Modi asked people to give him 50 days to sort out the glitches in an impassioned speech on Sunday. The opposition, on other hand, has been badgering the BJP-led government for sparking a “financial anarchy”.