Demonetisation: Fractured Opposition lack intent, even less teeth to trouble Modi

Prime Minister Narendra Modi must be a relieved man with a smile on his face, given the events of the day.

The Opposition's joint press conference to attack the government on demonetisation just showed that they have no clear strategy, nor do they pose any threat to his war against black money.

West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee was the only saving grace for the Congress' call. Most of the other Opposition parties, including those who had vociferously opposed demonetisation, weren't in attendance. No strategy was revealed on how to tackle Modi post 30 December. The thrust was more on why and how demonetisation has emerged as the biggest failure in the world — as a single economic move — that has destabilised the lives of 1.3 billion people in India.

Despite sharing a common platform, Banerjee and Gandhi differed on what they wanted from Modi. While the Trinamool chief said Modi should resign if the cash flow situation doesn't improve by 30 December, Gandhi kept asking the prime minister to explain why his name appeared in the Sahara-Birla bribery list.

 Demonetisation: Fractured Opposition lack intent, even less teeth to trouble Modi

Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi and West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee. PTI

Calling demonetisation the biggest scam after independence, Banerjee said the man on the road — from farmers to labourers — was suffering due to Modi's whims. "Demonetisation is big, big corruption. In the name of 'achche din', poor have been looted. Modiji, you had said that after 50 days things will be alright. Everybody suffered to give you the time, but who will now answer about the future of this scheme? Will you recall the restriction after 50 days?" she asked.

"Will Modiji accept the responsibility for this and resign if things don't improve after 50 days? He should resign; we demand his resignation if he fails to keep his promise," Mamata emphasised.

She even reminded the audience that the foundation of digital India was laid long ago by former Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi by introducing computer and communication revolution.

Chiding the BJP and RSS, the Congress vice-president said, "In a democratic system, we differ in opinions, unlike BJP-RSS, where they sing in unison from top to bottom. Here, I would differ with Mamataji and ask the PM to first explain to the nation, why his name appeared in the Aditya Birla group's diary seized by Income Tax officials. He has to come up clean first."

Referring to the Jain Hawala diary case, he said, "LK Advani resigned when his name appeared in the Jain diary, so did four of our (Congress) ministers. But, here the PM is silent on this issue. The entire Opposition will whole-heartedly support the PM's drive against corruption and his action against the corrupt, but Modiji has to first explain his own stand and come up clean."

The other parties who attended the meeting were DMK, JD(S), AUDF, JMM and IUML. However, parties like JD(U), Samajwadi Party, Bahujan Samaj Party, AIADMK, NCP and the Left parties were all absent, as they had decided on Monday not participate in the joint meeting. This meant Banerjee and Gandhi were the only two voices of national recall.

High on rhetoric and low on substance, the call given by Congress president Sonia Gandhi to unite opposition parties against Modi's demonetisation move proved to be a damp squib at the press conference at the Constitutional Club in New Delhi on Tuesday.

With most of the opposition parties staying away from this "show of strength", Congress and TMC seemed to realise the need of a common minimum programme that would lend heft to their agenda. "All opposition parties have reacted on demonetisation. Inside Parliament, all opposition parties joined hands together on this issue. A common minimum programme is needed on a series of things, so that all parties agree on the stand we take against demonetisation and corruption," said the Congress vice-president said.

"We can't dictate other parties. Let consultation take place and give rise to a common programme. This is the biggest scam post-independence," Mamata Banerjee added. "I called several leaders myself. I talked to Laluji. Some are busy with internal party programmes or preparing for elections. But opposition parties agree on what we are saying. Many of them have come here with us. At our end (TMC in Bengal), we will hit the streets with our 'Modi Hatao, Desh Bachao' slogan from 1 January," Banerjee told Firstpost.

"There's clearly no common minimum programme, no common agenda. As the Congress party has called a political leaders' meeting, it has to first tell what is the agenda or central theme of this meeting," Rajya Sabha MP and JD(U) leader KC Tyagi had told Firstpost on Monday.

The CPM had said that at present, an anti-BJP front was not possible on the demonetisation issue alone. Instead, larger mobilisation through political unity is needed to combat issues like communalism and economic policies like poverty alleviation.

Updated Date: Dec 27, 2016 22:31:12 IST