United Opposition? Not so much: Partisan politics could derail Tuesday's note ban meet

Cracks seem to have appeared in the Opposition's concerted campaign against demonetisation as several parties have pulled out of a joint press conference called by the Congress in Delhi on Tuesday over the contentious issue. While West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee is travelling to Delhi to attend the meeting, similar enthusiasm is missing among other Opposition parties.

Many important partners of the anti-demonetisation campaign, such as Janata Dal (United) (JD-U), the Left, Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) and Samajwadi Party (SP), on Monday refused to attend the joint press conference scheduled to be held at the Constitution Club in New Delhi on Tuesday. Several Opposition parties were left red faced after a Congress delegation led by its vice-president Rahul Gandhi went to meet Prime Minister Narendra Modi on 16 December, the last day of the Winter Session of Parliament, without even informing them.

"You cannot stall Parliament for a month demanding Modi's presence and then go to meet the prime minister even before it is adjourned sine die. You didn’t find it proper to consult us," an NCP leader was quoted as saying by Hindustan Times.

With campaigning for Uttar Pradesh Assembly election gathering storm, Tuesday's meeting gains more significance. The Congress was likely to focus on two issues: The corruption allegations against Modi, who rode to power two years ago promising a corruption-free government and the plight of the common people due to the demonetisation exercise.

 United Opposition? Not so much: Partisan politics could derail Tuesdays note ban meet

Congress, CPM, Trinamool Congress and other Opposition parties had vowed to be united against Modi's note ban drive. PTI

CPM General Secretary Sitaram Yechury on Monday said, "The Congress should know that in a combined effort, prior understanding and consultations are a must." "We have decided to stay away from the press conference of Opposition parties convened by the Congress because there has been no proper consultation and coordination among the parties," Yechury said during a press conference in New Delhi. "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," Yechury said.

"But when I wanted to know what will be the agenda of the meeting, plan of action and whether all Opposition parties have been called, I didn't receive any answer," Yechury said. "Till now, there was coordination among different Opposition parties' parliamentary groups. If you have to elevate it to the party level, you must do it with prior consultation," he added.

The motive behind Opposition presser is to decide on a strategy before the upcoming Union Budget and in the backdrop of the recently concluded Winter Session of Parliament which was a washout. JD(U) leader KC Tyagi told IANS: "We were not sounded out; we don't know what is the agenda of the press briefing; there is no common programme. So how can we participate?" Speaking to Livemint on the condition of anonymity, a senior JD(U) leader said, "Coordination in Parliament is very different from having a joint strategy against the government on the ground. We cannot commit to it right away. We will decide on it only after discussing it with (Bihar chief minister) Nitish Kumar, who will take a final call on it."

Nitish has been quite vocal in his support for the demonetisation drive.

Senior NCP leader DP Tripathi said although the "Opposition is united over the wrong implementation" of the 8 November demonetisation, his party won't be going to the presser. "Many parties are not coming; so we are not coming too," Tripathi said.

The Samajwadi Party, too, was undecided on the issue. "We have not decided... at least, I am not going. You may contact neta ji (Mulayam Singh Yadav) for more details," SP leader Naresh Agrawal told IANS. However, Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD), a coalition partner of JD(U) in Bihar, confirmed participation.

Trinamool Congress leader Sukehndu Shekhar Roy said his party is "most likely" to participate.

The Congress is striving for uniting the Opposition on the issue of Rahul Gandhi's charges of "personal corruption" against the prime minister and plans are afoot for a joint press conference by its president Sonia Gandhi and other Opposition leaders on 27 December. Yechury said that a few days back he had received a call from the Congress leadership inviting him to the press conference.

On being asked if the decision to stay away would not provide ammunition to the BJP camp, Yechury said," When you want to take the Opposition unity of 16 parties from a Parliament level to a political level then you need to hold consultation and discussion with the political leadership. A decision should be taken on the basis of proper consultation. That was not done, which is unfortunate," the veteran leader said.

Yechury noted that in order to take forward the unity of Opposition parties, references should be taken from the efforts that the CPM has taken during the 1996 United Front government and UPA-I government. Yechury wondered why only Mamata was invited to the press conference and chief ministers of Tripura, Bihar, and the NCP leadership were not properly consulted.

"Why are you only inviting chief minister of West Bengal and not calling the chief ministers of Bihar, Tripura and other states which have non-BJP governments?" he questioned.

The entire Opposition had tried to corner the government over the demonetisation issue and stalled Parliament proceedings for the entire session that began on 16 November.

A few days back, the Congress reached out to several Opposition parties to rally support once again over the issue. However, not all parties seem convinced with the Congress initiative this time around.

With inputs from agencies

Updated Date: Dec 26, 2016 17:37:01 IST