The Indian Parliament is back to what it does best: creating disruptions in proceedings and forcing adjournments. It seems that Congress, along with other opposition parties, has decided to use the issue of demonetisation as an opportunity to reap political dividends.
The manner in which proceedings in both Houses of Parliament began on Thursday morning – members rushing into the Well, slogan shouting and using just about any means to disrupt the functioning – clearly pointed to the fact that the Opposition benches were not interested in debating the matter. They did not seek any answers from the government and instead focused on a singular objective: To keep the issue alive for as long as they could.
It does not seem to matter whether the pretext to disrupt the proceedings is genuine or flimsy. A distinct pattern seems to have emerged to achieve the disruption: Demand an immediate discussion by suspending Question Hour in Lok Sabha or Zero Hour in Rajya Sabha at 11 am; don't listen to the government even if they are ready to agree with the Opposition's (mostly Congress) demands; then without waiting for the ruling by the Chair, troop into the Well of the House and shout full throttled slogans; then move to the majestic Central Hall of Parliament from the House to have tea, coffee, snacks and chat with fellow parliamentarians; return to the House to follow the same drill until the Chair announces in frustration that the House is "adjourned for the day".
The same drill is likely to follow in the days to come because in the wisdom leaders of Congress, Trinamool Congress (TMC) and some other parties, if a debate on the subject concludes with a reply from Finance Minister Arun Jaitley or even by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, then the issue would be "talked out" in just a day or two.
In such a scenario, according to the leaders, the issue will be quelled much before their arguments – right or wrong – begin penetrating the psyche of their target audience. And there is always the apprehension that the news channels could shift their focus from the subject to something else. The issue has to be kept alive at any cost and the only way this can be done is by continuously disrupting the Parliament.
That can also help explain the change in attitude of Congress, Trinamool and other opposition parties in the Rajya Sabha. The Upper House, normally known for its orderly and enriching debates from both sides, was in stark contrast to its character on Thursday as the proceedings were mostly noisy and disorderly.
Though the Opposition leaders did have a strong case in demanding Modi's presence in the House, to seek his response on the demonetisation issue and its implementation, they didn't seem to have enough restraint to hear the government's response.
There cannot be a counter argument to the difficulties being faced by the common man due to the withdrawal of 86 percent of the cash (Rs 500 and Rs 1,000) in circulation. Modi's 8 November surprise announcement has affected every single citizen of the country, in some way or the another. The long queues in front of banks and ATMs, the hardships faced due to the cash crunch and even deaths due to exhaustion while waiting to get cash are all providing some much required ammunition for the Opposition to fire at the Modi government.
The ruling BJP, in turn, think that Modi's credibility, popularity and his public discourse will tilt the scales in their favour. They believe that people will have faith in the kadak or harsh decision that targets corruption, black money, fake currency, hawala, terrorism, drugs and Naxal-funding as it would reap long-term benefits for the nation.
Amidst the Opposition's uproar on demonetisation came the news that Samajwadi Party (SP) chief Mulayam Singh Yadav had revoked the expulsion of his brother Ram Gopal Yadav. In doing so, Mulayam added yet another twist in the Yadav family war by reinstating Ram Gopal into the party and giving him the honour of leading SP in the Upper House. The move will have its own bearing on the ongoing fratricidal clan war in Uttar Pradesh.
Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal and TMC chief Mamata Banerjee, on the other hand, had other ideas. They held a rally at the Azadpur wholesale fruit and vegetable market to blast Modi, his government and his party BJP at a place where crowds are readily available. Mamata found it appropriate to declare that in the next election, Modi will lose badly for nobody will vote for him, not even his family members.
Kejriwal reminded people that he had previously held the post of Income tax Commissioner and that he had put his life at risk in his fight against corruption during the Anna movement – by fasting twice against the advise of doctors, once for 10 days and then for 15 days.
What he didn't say directly but clearly meant to say was that because of his credentials, he was the right man to be the next prime minister. Kejriwal said that the demonetisation move was an eight lakh crore scam, making this yet another occasion for him to level wild charges against Modi.
Mamata and Kejriwal then warned Modi, saying that he should roll back the demonetisation within the next three days for else the country will see a popular revolt against the current regime.