Opposition unites in show of 'anger'

The political battle over the government's demonetisation drive appeared set to escalate after Opposition parties today decided to hold countrywide protests on November 28 even as another day of Parliament's winter session went waste.

By Our Special Correspondent
  • Published 24.11.16
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Opposition members of Parliament form a human chain outside the House on Wednesdsay to demand the Prime Minister's reply to the debate on demonetisation. Picture by Prem Singh

New Delhi, Nov. 23: The political battle over the government's demonetisation drive appeared set to escalate after Opposition parties today decided to hold countrywide protests on November 28 even as another day of Parliament's winter session went waste.

Neither the Rajya Sabha nor the Lok Sabha could transact any business today, with Opposition members stalling proceedings in both Houses.

Although a consensus eluded proposals for a joint public rally or a Bharat bandh, the Opposition parties resolved to continue protests and observe Monday as "Aakrosh Diwas", with demonstrations in districts and state capitals across the country.

Senior leaders said despite unity of purpose - the cash crunch ordinary citizens have been facing since the BJP-led central government announced its demonetisation decision on November 8 - every party would work on its own.

The leaders said they had agreed on separate action plans because of the inherent contradictions and political hostility between some of these parties, which prevented them from working together on the ground.

For instance, it would be difficult for the Samajwadi Party, Bahujan Samaj Party and the Congress to organise combined demonstrations in election-bound Uttar Pradesh, where they are all rivals.

The same is the case in Bengal where the Left, Trinamul and the Congress can't come on the same platform.

In Tamil Nadu, too, arch-rivals DMK and the AIADMK both have serious reservations about the demonetisation.

All these parties, however, came together in Parliament House to form a human chain today. Over 200 MPs from the Congress, Trinamul, Samajwadi, BSP, CPM, CPI, Janata Dal United, RJD, NCP, DMK, AIADMK, JMM, National Conference and the RSP gathered in front of Mahatma Gandhi's statue, shouting slogans against the government for putting millions of people in trouble.

The members who carried placards that said "Stop prosecution of common man" and "Save poor & farmer" contested the government's claim that the decision to scrap the old 500-rupee and 1,000-rupee notes was aimed at helping the poor. They said the government had only destroyed the rural economy and cash-based sectors in one stroke.

Congress leader Rahul Gandhi, who was part of the protest, said: "This was the world's biggest impromptu financial experiment. But the question is why one billion people are harassed. The Prime Minister should come to Parliament and tell the nation the reason for this decision. We think there is a scam behind this decision. The finance minister didn't know but some industrialists knew."

Alluding to Narendra Modi's video address at a rock concert last week, Rahul said it was strange that the Prime Minister chose to speak about his decision at a song-and-dance show but not in Parliament. "The Prime Minister represents the country. Here, 200 MPs are asking him to come to Parliament and answer questions but he doesn't come," he said. "Why is he scared of Parliament?"

Rahul also claimed that the Opposition was united and wanted a joint parliamentary committee probe because "he tipped off his own people".

In Uttar Pradesh, Samajwadi chief Mulayam Singh Yadav warned Modi that pride comes before a fall. He asked the Prime Minister why he was so "arrogant" and told an election rally in Ghazipur -his first this election - that "it is not going to work for long". "It shouldn't happen in a democracy that you take a decision alone without consulting other stakeholders. Our Prime Minister is taking decisions arbitrarily," he said.

The Lok Sabha could not function today as Speaker Sumitra Mahajan rejected notices for an adjournment motion, prompting Opposition members to rush to the well and shout slogans.

The Prime Minister was present in the House when the members shouted slogans and displayed the placards criticising the government.

The Opposition wants a debate on an adjournment motion in the Lok Sabha, which entails voting. Although the BJP has managed to win over allies Shiv Sena and the Akali Dal, which had reservations about the decision, the government did not agree to an adjournment motion.

In the Rajya Sabha, the Opposition wants the Prime Minister to reply to the ongoing debate on demonetisation.