Demonetisation war in Parliament: Forget hurt egos, Oppn must get its act together

The prime minister is roaring in the field. The opposition is crying in Parliament.

The contrast between the BJP and the opposition strategy on the war over demonetisation is as stark as black and white. While Modi has raced into the battle field with his war cry, claiming that his latest decision is for the welfare of India, the opposition is still yelping in the House, seeking an apology for the barbs thrown at it.

"The prime minister has insulted the entire opposition," Congress leader Ghulam Nabi Azad sulked in Rajya Sabha, while Mayawati and Team Mamata provided the funereal chorus.

Hello! Mr Azad and company, are you living in some la la land?

The demonetisation debate is not about the Opposition or its bloated ego. It is about India, its poor, its farmers, its future. It is about the growing fear that the Indian economy is now in the queue--ready, as former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said quoting Keynes, to die in the long run.

When did the debate become about you?

Demonetisation war in Parliament: Forget hurt egos, Oppn must get its act together

Deputy Chairman PJ Kurien trying to pacify the members holding a protest in the Well of Rajya Sabha in New Delhi on Thursday. PTI

The Opposition's stand on the demonetisation debate is symptomatic of its incompetence and complete disconnect with the ground. It has oscillated between pure bluster--Mamata threatening the PM to roll back the decision in three days or else-- to hilarious and confused.

The acme of its confusion-comedy-contrasts was visible within the first week when Rahul Gandhi drove up to a bank with his entourage to queue up like, ahem, an aam aadmi. When he argued that some people were aware of the PM's decision in advance and then cancelled out his own attack by claiming even finance minister Arun Jaitely was not told about the demonetisation experiment.

To be brutally honest, India is well past the time when Rahul Gandhi could have been taken seriously. He is just not cut out for politics and its searing debates. To PM's Malcolm Marshall he is a rabbit with a helmet and other vital protective gear. And, unfortunately, every time he speaks or takes a stand in a political debate, he ends up giving more ammo to the BJP and those who manufacture jokes on social media.

But, at least senior politicians like Azad and Mayawati should have the prescience to see that some battles can't be fought from their cosy seats in Parliament. When a war is waging, nobody becomes a hero by sitting and yelling in their bedrooms.

What it needs to do now is this: get its act together, unite, choose a leader who can take on Modi in the field and go galloping into the field. It needs to do what JP did in 1977 and what VP Singh achieved in 1989: Fight it like a man, not wailing wimps.

The debate on demonetisation is still inconclusive. The common man in the queues is still confused if it will help him in the long run or achieve the stated objectives behind Modi's ploy. The battle for mindspace is yet to be fought. But, by charging head on into the field Modi has a start over them.

So, what can the Opposition do? Think VP, think JP, think UP.

Since the opposition is united against demonetisation and claims to represent the voice of India, how about treating the next election in Uttar Pradesh as referendum on Modi's new monetary policy — our own Brexit? How about forging a Mahagathbandhan and contesting the election as a united front against the decision?

Mayawati has already dared the prime minister to seek a fresh mandate. But, that's a silly idea, especially when Uttar Pradesh is on the horizon. In many ways, UP is the microcosm of India and the best place to find out what people of India think.

India has seen strange alliances in the past. In 1989, the Left and Right both supported VP Singh against Rajiv Gandhi's government. Corruption back then over rode existing differences, ideologies and became the raison d'être of the index of Opposition unity. This time demonetisation can be the glue that brings everyone together.

Is the opposition up to it? Can Mayawati share the same platform with Mulayam? Can Kejriwal and Mamata Banerjee ride out with Rahul to meet their common adversary? Can they, like the Alexander Dumas characters, chant: All for one, one for all?

For the battle-ready, there are only two ways of taking the fight to the public: The Modi way or the highway.

For the battle-scared there is of course the option of jumping around in Parliament, tilting at the windmills and be forgotten as Don Quixotes of Indian politics.

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Updated Date: Nov 25, 2016 16:09:36 IST

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