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Demonetisation: President's words give teeth to Congress agitation, but Rahul's presence is a must

President Pranab Mukherjee’s statement that demonetisation may lead to a temporary slowdown of the economy bears extra weight as it’s coming from somebody who has had stellar stints as finance minster of the country during some crucial years. It is also a blessing in disguise for the Congress that has been trying to intensify its opposition to demonetisation and turn it into a nationwide campaign.

While addressing the governors and lieutenant-governors on Thursday, Mukherjee said, "Demonetisation, while immobilising black money and fighting corruption, may lead to temporary slowdown of the economy. We all will have to be extra careful to alleviate the suffering of the poor which might become unavoidable for the expected progress in the long term."

The president’s statement will give teeth to the Congress' nationwide stir that has been called '8/11 Attack on India’s economy', which began on 3 January.

However, the actual agitation against the Narendra Modi government will begin on 6 January, with Congress party workers planning to gherao district collectors’ offices across the country.

"The Congress started its nationwide protest campaign against the ills of demonetisation — which has been named '8/11 attack' — on 3 January. The common man ought to know the truth about demonetisation, which is the biggest scam in the political history of India. The party has chalked out a comprehensive agitation programme — from press conferences, gherao of collectors’ offices in all districts to our vice-president Rahul Gandhi touring different states," Congress leader and spokesperson Randeep Surjewala told Firstpost.

File image of Opposition members protesting against demonetisation. PTI

File image of Opposition members protesting against demonetisation. PTI

For the first two days (3 and 4 January), press conferences were conducted at state capitals and district headquarters by PCC state executives and senior party leaders to create mass awareness. It’ll be followed by the gherao of district collectors’ offices and women’s rallies. The women’s wing of the Congress will stage demonstration rallies in various parts of the country, with the slogan "Garib ki jeb khali, baja thaali"on 9 January.

"We’ve already organised two centralised dharnas against the note ban followed by staging protests at block-levels. On 7 January we’ll intensify our agitation by organising district-level protests across Delhi. A similar action plan has been adopted in other parts of the country," Delhi Congress spokesperson Sharmistha Mukherjee said.

The party has engaged its general secretaries and state chiefs to disseminate its stand against the note ban among the public through press briefings and meetings.

"After holding a press conference in Kolkata, I headed to Ranchi and then to Patna. We've adopted an aggressive stand against the ill-effects of note ban on the poor and common man. This move has witnessed a large-scale exodus of labour force from production centres, resulting into unemployment,” Congress general secretary Shakeel Ahmed said.

This time instead of mere sloganeering and staging demonstrations, the party has equipped itself with facts and figures to counter the Modi government.

By releasing a booklet – Demonetisation: 8/11 Attack on India’s economy, the Congress has tried to expose the ill-preparedness of the demonetisation move and its cascading effect on various sectors—from employment to industry.

"Through this booklet, we’ve countered the claims made by our prime minister regarding demonetisation — and that of curbing the black money menace — as the biggest and boldest reform. Modiji’s roll out plan indicates a blatant disregard of institutional integrity," Surjewala added.

If sources are to be believed, armed with the president’s remark on demonetisation, the Congress will organise a national-level convention to "break myths about demonetisation" any day between 11 and 14 January.

"The president’s remark made today is not just another statement on ill-effects of demonetisation. After all he had been the finance minister of this country for years and his observations are based on facts rather on perceptions. This is a big boost to our agitation programme,” a Congress leader remarked.

Rahul, who had organised a press conference along with Trinamool Congress supremo and West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee and a few Opposition parties in Delhi on 27 December to attack the prime minister and his policy, demanded a 'white paper' to expose the truth behind demonetisation. The party has asked five questions and made five demands in its recently released booklet.

However, there is one question that the country’s oldest political party ought to answer: Where is Rahul Gandhi and why is he missing? Especially, when the Congress needs him the most as its anti-Modi mascot, to fight the ghost of demonetisation?

While on Thursday, Rahul tweeted demanding an inquiry into the Sahara diaries, his physical presence will not only save his party leaders from facing the media’s embarrassing questions on his 'sudden disappearance' from the battleground, but will also give credibility to the party’s anti-note ban agitation.

Updated Date: Jan 06, 2017 10:17 AM

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