Is opposition actually united against demonetisation?
New Delhi, Nov 30 (IANS) Almost all political parties outside the Modi government have launched a combined attack on demonetisation but there are clear divisions in the ranks.
The opposition has virtually paralysed both houses of Parliament ever since Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced on November 8 that he had scrapped the 500 and 1,000 rupee notes to battle black money and more.
The unprecedented cash crunch the decision has caused across the country, forcing millions to stand in long queues at ATMs as well as banks, has angered the opposition.
While the Congress, Trinamool Congress, the Left, BSP, RJD and AAP oppose the note ban per se, some including the DMK, Janata Dal-United (JD-U) and BJD are okay with the demonetisation.
But the DMK has taken part in street protests against the misery caused to bank account holders because of the cash crunch.
And the Shiv Sena, a Modi ally, has taken a hard line on the misery due to the note ban.
More than 70 deaths, including suicides, hospital casualties and people dying in queues outside ATMs and banks in the country in the past three weeks have been linked to the cash crunch caused by the demonetisation.
After the note ban, a person can take out only Rs 24,000 a week from his bank account.
While former JD-U President Sharad Yadav spoke against demonetisation in the Rajya Sabha, Bihar Chief Minister and party chief Nitish Kumar said he supported the Centre’s move.
Sharad Yadav has since stopped coming to the Rajya Sabha and the opposition meetings. On Tuesday, he was called to Opposition leader Ghulam Nabi Azad’s chamber and asked to clarify his party’s stand.
When IANS sought a comment from Yadav, he declined.
There is also ambiguity in the Samajwadi Party. While its Rajya Sabha member Naresh Agrawal earlier vehemently demanded the scheme’s scrapping, he told IANS on Tuesday that a rollback was not possible now as it would result in bigger chaos.
“But the Prime Minister must find a way out of this mess,” he said.
Former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh outlined the Congress view when he called the demonetisation an “organised loot and legalised plunder” that had also proved to be a “monumental management failure”.
Since then, the Congress has described the demonetisation as the biggest scandal in independent India.
Interestingly, this stand comes close to the charge hurled by the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP), whose leader and Delhi’s Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal is holding a string of public rallies against the currency ban.
West Bengal Chief Minister and Trinamool leader Mamata Banerjee too is holding protests across the country and has denounced Modi in no uncertain terms for ordering demonetisation.
Some opposition figures said they needed to be careful so that they were not viewed as people favouring black money because of their opposition to the government decision.
In the wake of a nationwide cash crunch, the Left wants the government to allow people to use the old money at least until December 31 for minor transactions.
“Hardly anybody is demanding a rollback. We are demanding a relief for the suffering millions,” Communist Party of India-Marxist Lok Sabha member Mohammed Salim told IANS.
Trinamool Rajya Sabha member Derek O’ Brien, however, told IANS: “Demonetisation is a big scandal. People are suffering. We have offered concrete suggestions.
“One is to allow old and new 500 rupee notes to function parallel to each other,” he said.
Salim added: “It is not a two party system here. Every party has its own stand. But broadly in Parliament, we are together and will evolve a future strategy together.”
Congress’ Jairam Ramesh said the “entire opposition” was united on the issue.
Samajwadi Party’s Ram Gopal Yadav too said his party was with the opposition combine. Asked about his party’s strategy in the Rajya Sabha in the coming days, he said: “Let’s see what happens.”