Ahead of Sonia Gandhi's meeting, the bubble of Opposition unity has burst

The Opposition unity is under scrutiny as visible cracks appear ahead of Tuesday's meeting convened by Congress to ramp up attack on demonetisation and alleged "personal corruption" of Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Left parties and JD(U) are unlikely to attend the meeting and this brings the big question to the fore: Has the Opposition parties abandoned the Opposition?

In the Winter Session of the Parliament, a strong Opposition, led by the Congress and Trinamool Congress's Mamata Banerjee, raised hell and opposed Modi's demonetisation move.

A week after the Winter session ended, the Opposition seems to have scattered and abandoned its leader — Congress. During the Winter session, a united Opposition caused uproar in the Parliament to protest against Modi's demonetisation move. However things have changed since then.

While the Left parties announced they are staying away from the meeting organised by Congress, the JD(U) also gave hints that it may follow suit. Congress is part of the JD(U)-led Nitish Kumar government in Bihar, but when demonetisation was announced, Nitish Kumar was one of the first few leaders to show support for Modi's scheme.

Samajwadi Party (SP) and Bahujan Samajwadi Party (BSP) refrained from comment, while NCP's Tariq Anwar, who had earlier committed to the meeting, had to change plans due to the demise of his mother in Patna.

In a joint press conference Congress leader Jairam Ramesh downplayed the plans of several parties skipping the Opposition meeting citing local and regional compulsions for some parties not to be together on the same platform.

"Whoever comes tomorrow will come. Those who don't come tomorrow will come the next time. Those who will come, you will see tomorrow," said Ramesh striking a philosophical note.

He, however, dismissed suggestions that Tuesday's meeting was a "tea party" like the one in 1998 which ultimately led to the downfall of the Vajpayee government.

 Ahead of Sonia Gandhis meeting, the bubble of Opposition unity has burst

Representational image. PTI

Ramesh said, "The biggest issue today is demonetisation and the second issue is corruption by the Prime Minister, which will be the main issues before tomorrow's meet."

On Monday, on the eve of deliberations, Rahul Gandhi had held a meeting of all Congress general secretaries and State Congress presidents at his residence to discuss the situation.

A senior party leader, likened Tuesday's parleys with that of the Shimla conclave in 2003 which saw Congress pitching for unity of secular forces to oust the then NDA government led by Vajpayee.

The meeting is seen as an attempt on part of the Congress to paper over the cracks that developed when several Opposition parties skipped the joint Opposition march to Rashtrapati Bhawan on 16 December over demonetisation.

They were apparently annoyed over Congress Vice President Rahul Gandhi meeting the Prime Minister earlier that day on the issue of farmers' problems, especially in poll-bound Uttar Pradesh and Punjab.

"We have decided to stay away from the press conference of Opposition parties convened by the Congress because here has been no proper consultation and coordination among parties," CPM general secretary Sitaram Yechury said in Kolkata.

Yechury said, "Most of the parties were neither consulted nor informed about what will be the agenda of the meeting. Several Opposition parties have reservation about the way the meeting has been convened."

CPI National Secretary D Raja said there should have been "more prior consultations on the date and agenda" of the
meeting of Opposition parties.

"Lack of such prior consultation and discussion has caused difficulties. We could have got an opportunity to discuss within our parties and taking a position," he said, adding that all parties have already made their own plans.

JD(U) spokesperson KC Tyagi said, "The meeting has no agenda, not even a common minimum programme. It is unlikely to arrive at any conclusion."

However West Bengal chief minister and TMC supremo Mamata Banerjee, who has been vocal against demonetisation is one of the few leaders who will attend Wednesday's meet.

The Opposition meet is being held at a time when the Modi dispensation has completed half its term and the ruling BJP is going whole hog to capture key Uttar Pradesh, where Assembly polls will take place in few months.

Congress is striving for uniting the Opposition on the issue of Rahul Gandhi's charge of "personal corruption" against the prime minister.

Meanwhile, taking potshots at Congress after over decisions of several parties to keep away from the meeting, BJP said the balloon of their "so-called unity" has burst even before it could have floated.

"It was never a positive move but an outcome of negative politics against Prime Minister Narendra Modi. It only shows that even Opposition parties have rejected Rahul Gandhi whose credibility has already gone down among the masses," its national secretary Shrikant Sharma said.

With inputs from agencies

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Updated Date: Dec 27, 2016 16:01:31 IST