The turn of events in Rajya Sabha on Thursday raises a serious question. Are the Congress and its new found friends Trinamool Congress, Samajwadi Party, Bahujan Samaj Party and Left really interested in a debate on demonetisation, in a response from Prime Minister Narendra Modi to what they think are the "popular concerns" or their singular intent is to disrupt Parliament?
It now seems that the opposition wants to keep their disruptive momentum going until 28 November for their nationwide bandh call against demonetisation, which they call Akrosh Diwas Bharat Bandh. There couldn't be an Akrosh Diwas (anger day) if the lead opposition leaders themselves don't display or continue to display their anger till that day.
They also know that given a chance Modi, with all the eloquence at his command and ability to counter charge against his rivals, they would not be left with much to charge against him and his regime. Their anger would subside unless they find some fresh reasons to be angry and make people feel the same anger as they do. It is thus best suited to them, as part of their strategy to keep on creating a ruckus on flimsy pretexts and not to let Modi respond, at least till Monday.
Consider how events unfolded today — till noon the opposition was crying hoarse that the Modi was avoiding Parliament, which to them effectively meant insulting temple of democracy and in turn parliamentary democracy.
But then Prime Minister surprised by coming to Rajya Sabha and announcing through Finance Minister and Leader of that House Arun Jaitley that he would intervene in the debate. That effectively took the steam out of the opposition stance and for an hour it seemed an orderly debate would take place. But one realises that then the opposition had no other option but to let the debate proceed.
The opposition leaders very well knew that the Prime Minister, who happens to be the Head of Executive of the nation simply can't afford to sit for days in both Houses of Parliament to listen to all speeches. He has other businesses to do. The minister-in-charge of the nodal ministry remains present in the House. Some other ministers also remain present and notes are given to the PM by the ministers and other staff. He also listens to the debate, as and when possible, on TV even if he is not present in the House. The Prime Minister responds in the designated time in Parliament which is an old practice.
So when the House reassembled after lunch, the Prime Minister didn't come, the opposition was back to what they know it the best, disrupt the House and force adjournment for the day. Their arguments could sound more hollow, more so after Finance Minister asserted that PM would come and respond in the debate. The question is what makes Congress, BSP, TMC, SP, Left so determined to find common ground and disrupt the House day after day without any valid ground.
The way events are unfolding and the way Rahul Gandhi and company are making boastful claims on "opposition unity", it seems that their concern is not about demonetisation but fighting a political war against Modi, which they in any case always wanted to. Demonetisation is only the pretext. They all are claiming to be championing hardships faced by the common man and woman on the streets due to discontinuance of Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 notes but the way they are venting their anger, albeit claiming to be on people's behalf raises the question is there something more behind than what meets the eye.
But then too many conflicting points are being made by opposition leaders, without one caring for others' demands. They are perhaps conscious not to cede their lead role to another leader — Rahul to Mamata or vice versa, Kerjriwal to Mamata or vice versa, Mayawati to Rahul or vice versa, Yechuri to Mamata or vice versa and so on.
Sample their contradiction and conflicts. The Congress and Left parties did not join Mamata Banerjee's march to the President House because Rahul Gandhi, Sonia Gandhi and Sitaram Yechuri could not march in her leadership. Same happened at Mamata's Jantar Mantar rally. Mamata also wants to overthrow Modi regime now. Mayawati wants the dissolution of Parliament and a snap poll now. Mamata and Kejriwal want complete roll back, Rahul wants constitution of JPC. Rahul and Kejriwal smell a scam but when Manmohan Singh rose to speak on demonetisation in Rajya Sabha he didn't talk about JPC or any scam. JD(U) leader Sharad Yadav attends protest rallies but his party chief and Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar is openly in support of Modi's demonetisation move. The list of contradiction in opposition ranks would go on.
What, however, makes them come together is their known anti-Modi positioning but will that be enough to convince the people at large that they have waged a war against the present ruling dispensation on demonetisation to protect their interests. Their present difficulties bleed their heart more than getting convinced by stated objectives of Modi that his shock therapy was to fight against corruption, black money, fake currency, drug, hawala, terror and Naxal financing.
In the din the Congress and its present fellow travellers did not even listen to what their leader, former prime minister Manmohan Singh said in Parliament: "I do not disagree with the objectives of taking steps against terrorism and black money.... In the process of demonetisation, monumental mismanagement has taken place. What has been done can weaken and erode our people's confidence in the currency and banking system,..... I say so with all responsibility that we do not know what will be the full outcome. 50 days is a short period but for those who are poor, even 50 days can bring about disastrous effects." This essentially means that the economist and administrator in Manmohan Singh endorsed the objectives behind PM Modi's bold move but a Congress politician in him made them add other riders. The second part can still be debated, provided his party let the Parliament function.