Congress leads Opposition charge over PNB scam as second phase of Budget Session begins on stormy note

After losing Tripura and Nagaland, and failing to form the government in Meghalaya despite emerging as the single largest party, a toothless Congress tried its best to bite the Narendra Modi-led NDA government hard inside the Parliament on Monday.

Apart from the Congress, other Opposition parties including NDA constituent Telugu Desam Party (TDP) launched a forceful attack on the government. The attack, which was centred on the alleged PNB fraud, ultimately led to the adjournment of both the Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha.

The opposition parties and the TDP had been waiting for the Parliament to begin so that they could launch an offensive against the BJP. Indications of this were clear much before the second phase of the Budget Session began on Monday.

Right from the morning, MPs from the TDP and Trinamool Congress (TMC) staged demonstrations by holding placards and raising slogans near the Gandhi statue outside Parliament. Inside, both Houses of the Parliament witnessed stormy sessions.

TMC MPs holding protests over the Nirav Modi scam outside Parliament. PTI

TMC MPs holding protests over the Nirav Modi scam outside Parliament. PTI

Congress’ strategy

Much before the announcement of the election results, the principal Opposition party Congress had planned to launch a scathing attack on the BJP government on the issue of corruption. So had the other Opposition parties who had separately decided to take the government head on in Parliament.

Not deterred by its dismal electoral performance in the North Eastern states, the Congress decided to go ahead with the strategy it chalked out during its steering committee meeting.

During a meeting of the Congress’ highest decision-making body —the steering committee — the party had decided to attack the Modi government inside and outside the Parliament in a big way by raising the PNB scam. The grand old party of India decided to try and rope in other ‘like-minded political parties’ to form a joint action committee and pressurise the government. Senior leaders Ghulam Nabi Azad and Mallikarjun Kharge were assigned the task of speaking with other parties and thereafter demanding a Joint Parliamentary Committee (JPC) probe into the Rs 11,400 crore PNB scam.

Besides raising the issue inside Parliament, the Congress decided to stage demonstrations, rallies and press briefings across the country.

Following the party's plan to launch a scathing attack on Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Rajya Sabha members Ghulam Nabi Azad and Anand Sharma along with other members  in the Upper House questioned his silence over the alleged scam.

“We had already decided to take up corruption issues, including the bank scam related to Nirav Modi and Mehul Choksi and we did it. We’ll intensify our agitation and also garner support from other Opposition parties on the corruption issue. We will take it up in both the Houses. The prime minister has to tell the nation who is responsible for India’s biggest bank scam,” a senior Congress leader told Firstpost.

Besides raising the PNB scam, the Congress leaders also took up the black money issue

“Public money deposited in a nationalised bank has been looted. Why is the prime minister quiet?” Anand Sharma questioned.

Other opposition parties

The Aam Aadmi Party (AAP), with three MPs, wasn’t to be left behind. It raised concerns related to the Delhi government.

Before the Parliament started functioning, the TDP MPs gave adjournment notices in both the Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha demanding a discussion on the Andhra Pradesh Reorganisation Act. As the session began, the TDP MPs went to the Well of both the Houses and staged protests with placards saying, “We want justice.”

The Left, despite getting routed in the Tripura election, sought to join in the protests.

“The PNB scam was the biggest loot and fraud in the country. The Left will be at the forefront of this agitation, whether it’s on the floor of the Parliament or outside. Inside the Parliament, we’ll take it up through floor coordination,” Communist Party of India (CPI) Rajya Sabha member D Raja told Firstpost.

Meanwhile, there’s a buzz regarding the formation of a non-BJP, non-Congress ‘third front’. The TMC is well aware of the BJP-RSS challenge, especially after the BJP dismantled the Manik Sarkar-led CPM government in Tripura. After the results, the BJP president Amit Shah had said that the party’s next target was the Mamata Banerjee-led TMC government in Bengal and the CPM-led government in Kerala.

The K Chandrasekhar Rao-led Telangana Rashtra Samithi (TRS) party members demanded an increase in the reservation quota in Telangana.

Telangana chief minister K Chandrasekhar Rao has claimed that besides a few political leaders from regional parties, West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee had called him seeking an alternative front.

“The TMC is looking at the possibility of forming a third front. It’s at a nascent stage and talks are going on with other non-BJP, non-Congress parties to chalk out a strategy,” a TMC leader told Firstpost on the condition of anonymity.

Outside Parliament, it was the Jagan Mohan Reddy-led YSR Congress Party that staged a large demonstration at the Parliament Street demanding ‘special category’ status for Andhra Pradesh.

“If Mamata (Banerjee) and (Asaduddin) Owaisi are calling for a third front to form a non-BJP and non-Congress government, the YSR Congress party will support them. However, this is provided they meet our demands for special category status and assistance to Andhra Pradesh for growth. The final call will be taken by our president Jagan Mohan Reddy,” YSR Congress party’s MP Vijay Sai Reddy said.

YSR Congress members protesting outside Parliament. Debobrat Ghose/Firstpost

YSR Congress members protesting outside Parliament. Debobrat Ghose/Firstpost

Challenge ahead

Despite high-decibel sloganeering and demonstrations, it needs to be seen whether the Congress is able to garner support from other ‘like-minded parties’ through floor-coordination and demand a JPC probe in the PNB scam. It also needs to be seen whether the Opposition parties are able to unite to stop the Modi juggernaut.


Updated Date: Mar 05, 2018 22:08 PM

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