Demonetisation: Opposition to corner Modi govt in Parliament and on streets
Sparks are likely to fly in the upcoming Winter Session of Parliament. Setting aside their political and ideological differences, the Opposition seems united in cornering the government over the hardships being faced by the common man due to Prime Minister Narendra Modi's demonetisation scheme.
The debate over demonetisation will witness heated confrontations between a unified Opposition and an aggressive government. .
Unlike the previous session that witnessed political parties come together for a smooth passage of the GST Bill, the Opposition is back in confrontational mode and is likely to raise multiple issues including the One Rank One Pension (OROP), Kashmir, among others.
A clear numerical advantage over others in Lok Sabha gives BJP an upper hand over its political rivals, much of the confrontation is likely to be confined to the Upper House of the Parliament where Opposition has the numbers to take on the government as witnessed in previous sessions. "Rajya Sabha has become the people's Parliament," said JD (U) leader KC Tyagi.
From 16 November, Rajya Sabha will witness multiple disruptions, but is unlikely to bother a combative BJP which is no mood to buckle under pressure. "In the Parliament we will get to know which people are on the side of black money hoarders," was senior BJP leader Venkaiah Naidu's response to Opposition's plan of taking on the government.
Under these circumstances, questions are being raised whether the Opposition should hit the streets in protest rather than confining itself to Rajya Sabha."Just wait and watch," said Tyagi who went on to add, "Let the issue heat up in Parliament and then we will take it to the streets."
A RJD leader, on the request of anonymity, raised similar questions and said debating in Parliament would not yield the desired results. He questioned why political parties are refraining from coming together to protest against the government's "unilateral and dictatorial" move that has the entire nation queued up outside banks.
Mamata leads the charge
Interestingly, TMC supremo and West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee is spearheading the efforts to unite the Opposition in taking on the government in the Parliament and even outside. Over the past few days, the Bengal chief minister has been rallying for support from political parties, even arch rival CPI (M), to oppose the government's move.
Banerjee would be in Delhi on 16 November and plans to gather about 100 parliamentarians to march from Parliament to President's House to submit a petition against demonetisation and demand its revocation.
The West Bengal chief minister also called up President Pranab Mukherjee to seek appointment and said, "The Honourable President was kind enough to take my call. I briefed him about how common people are suffering because of demonetisation. I thank him for agreeing to meet representatives of political parties on 16 or 17 November. We will brief him in detail on the grim situation."
She is said to have spoken to Lalu Prasad Yadav, Arvind Kejriwal, Sharad Yadav and is also trying to reach out to Mayawati and Mulayam Singh Yadav. However, the Congress and Left are likely to give the march to President's House a miss since they believe nothing would come out of what is largely a symbolic move. However, there is consensus in the Opposition to target the prime minister and the government over the scrapping of Rs 500 and Rs 1000 currency notes.
A senior Congress leader said their experiences of meeting the President during the Arunachal Pradesh crisis is a case in point and even several other meetings with him have resulted in absolutely nothing. Moreover, Congress doesn't want to be seen as someone seeking revocation of the move to curb black money and instead keep it confined to the implementation part which has caused much misery to the common folk.
Meanwhile, other political parties are struggling with the same question of whether they should follow Mamata''s call or keep their criticism confined to the implementation part. The Congress has already decided to raise the issue under rules 56 and 193 in the Lok Sabha while deputy leader of the Opposition in the Rajya Sabha, Anand Sharma, has given a notice for the suspension of business under rule 267 of the Upper House to discuss the issue.
Sensing the combative mood of the Opposition, the prime minister also held a meeting of BJP's Parliamentary Party executive to devise strategy for the upcoming session. During the course of the meeting, he is said to have told BJP parliamentarians not to buckle under pressure from the Opposition and that the Opposition was trying to sabotage the good work done by the BJP. He also assured them that there is no question of a roll back and that the nation has embraced the step.
Earlier in the day, PM Modi made scathing attacks on the Opposition, particularly Congress, while addressing a public rally in Ghazipur in poll bound Uttar Pradesh. Soon after, the Opposition parties launched an all out attack on the prime minister with Congress, AAP and BSP holding press conferences, raising questions about the sudden move.
Calling the prime minister as "autocratic and dictatorial" Congress sought bank details of all bank accounts of state units of BJP as also central BJP accounts and claimed that the banking data reflects that a selected few already knew about the decision of Modi Government to 'change notes'.
Accusing the Modi government of branding the entire country as "criminals", Randeep Singh Surjewala said the actual black money lies with prime minister's "industrialist friends", who are not standing in any line before a bank or an ATM.
"What is the reason that none of the industrialist friends, top bureaucrats, Cabinet ministers, BJP chief ministers or BJP leaders are standing in any line in front of any bank or ATM, while the entire nation spends the entire day attempting to exchange Rs.4,000?" Surjewala asked.
Even Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal did not mince his words and challenged Modi's claim of the poor "sleeping peacefully while the rich consume sleeping pills". He said, "It is the poor who are camping outside banks and it is Modi's friends who are sleeping peacefully," he said further questioning how introducing a Rs 2,000 note would check corruption and black money.
While Kejriwal was talking to the media, BSP supremo Mayawati too held a press conference and dismissed prime minister's claims of demonetisation as "hollow" and called the move "anti-farmer". Even CPI (M) leader Sitaram Yechury questioned the move to introduce new currency notes when no one is accepting it.
Congress reaches out to other parties
Earlier in the day, a meeting was convened by Congress' leader of the Opposition in Rajya Sabha Ghulam Nabi Azad at his room in the Parliament that witnessed leaders of TMC, RJD, JD(U), Jharkhand Mukti Morcha (JMM), YSR Congress and Left Parties met on Monday to chalk out a joint strategy to take on the government for its shoddy implementation of the demonetisation scheme.
Later, representatives of the Opposition met Lok Sabha Speaker Sumitra Mahajan, who had called an all party meeting to discuss ways to ensure smooth functioning of the House. The Opposition parties will yet again meet on Tuesday to refine its strategy to take on taking on the government.
What is adding to the BJP's worries is that it isn't just the Opposition parties which are attacking it on the demonetisation issue. Even its own alles like the Shiv Sena and Shiromani Akali Dal have spoken against it.
Meanwhile, much to the chagrin of the finance minister Arun Jaitley. the government's plan of pushing two Bills related to the GST could become victim of this confrontational politics.