The BJP’s ally, Shiv Sena, has decided register its disapproval of the Union government’s demonetisation plan on a national level — by joining a protest led by the Mamata Banerjee-led Trinamool Congress, which has been one of the fiercest critics of the Narendra Modi-led government.
Shiv Sena Chief Uddhav Thackeray spoke to Banerjee on the phone on Monday night. In a meeting with his party’s MPs on Tuesday, Thackeray directed them to join the protest march of several opposition parties to Rashtrapati Bhavan on Wednesday.
“Uddhavsaheb told us that the party is not against Modi, but this is a question of people’s life. Moreover, he said, if Modi can walk along Sharad Pawar, why can’t Shiv Sena walk along Mamata Banerjee?” a Sena leader said. “Besides, he is not just talking to Banerjee. He is also talking to the BJP and recently voiced the Sena’s concerns to finance minister Arun Jaitley as well.”
Sanjay Raut, a Rajya Sabha MP from Shiv Sena, said the party will knock on all doors possible to ensure people are not inconvenienced in the demonetisation process. “We will also seek an appointment with the prime minister for this. We are not looking at who is in the opposition and who the ruling party is. We are looking at 1.25 billion Indians.”
The Trinamool Congress has been getting in touch with opposition and regional parties, attempting to unite them against the government’s flash decision of decommissioning currency of the denomination of Rs500 and Rs1,000, which has inconvenienced several citizens. Banerjee plans to meet President Pranab Mukherjee along with Congress and the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) leaders.
“BJP is a national party and it has completely marginalised and dominated regional parties. It is time that regional parties start uniting on issues concerning public welfare,” a Sena MP said.
One of Shiv Sena’s main demands is that the government should allow district cooperative banks to accept old decommissioned Rs500 and Rs1,000 notes for new currency. As of now, the Reserve Bank of India has said district cooperative banks will not be allowed to exchange old currency for new one.
Shiv Sena MP from south central Mumbai Rahul Shewale said, “There are at least 14,000 villages in the country where nationalised banks are not there. In many other places, there is one nationalised bank for as many as 25 villages. Demonetisation has disrupted all activity here. Similarly, even private hospitals should be allowed to accept the decommissioned currency.”
This is not the first time the Sena is joining forces with the opposition against the BJP-led government, despite being an ally. Last year, too, the Sena, which had reservations against the land acquisition bill, joined a meeting of opposition parties to work out a strategy of how to best quash proposed changes in the 2013 law. At the state level too, the Sena has sided with the opposition to stall proceedings of the legislature, the most recent being over the issue of a separate statehood for Vidarbha.