Several opposition parties to stay away from Congress presser

New Delhi, Dec 26 (IANS) 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 here on Tuesday over the contentious issue.

The Congress, however, said those not coming for the December 27 presser “will come in future”.

Several important partners in 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 here.

Apart from demonetisation, the Congress plans to corner Prime Minister Narendra Modi over the Sahara diaries and Gujarat State Petroleum Corporation Ltd. But apparently, it did not share the agenda with other parties.

JD-U leader K.C. Tyagi told IANS: “We were not sounded out; we don’t know what is the agenda of the press briefing; there is no common minimum programme. So how can we participate?”

Senior NCP leader D.P. Tripathi said although the “opposition is united over the wrong implementation” of the November 8 demonetisation, his party won’t be going to the presser.

“Many parties are not coming; so we are not coming too,” Tripathi said.

Communist Party of India Marxist (CPI-M) General Secretary Sitaram Yechury said at a press conference in Kolkata on Monday: “The Congress should know that in a combined effort, prior understanding and consultations are a must.”

“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.

Samajwadi Party leader Naresh Agrawal said: “We have not decided… at least, I am not going. You may contact neta ji (Mulayam Singh Yadav) for more details,” .

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 December 16, the last day of the winter session of Parliament, without even informing them.

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

However, Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD), a coalition partner of JD-U in Bihar, confirmed participation.

Trinamool Congress leader Sukehndu Shekhar Roy said his party too is “most likely” to participate.

The opposition leaders likely to attend the presser will hold a meeting beforehand and discuss various issues, including the strategy to be adopted during the next Parliament session.

Congress leader Jairam Ramesh on Monday said: “Whoever comes tomorrow (Tuesday), will come. Whoever doesn’t, will come in future.”

Regarding Yechury’s remarks, Ramesh said: “Yechury has also local issues to contend with; but I am sure that ultimately he, being a mature national leader, will recognise that he has to walk on two legs — one leg will fight local parties and other leg will fight national parties.”

Asked if Sonia Gandhi will address the presser, Ramesh said” The “Congress leadership” will be present at the event.

“The biggest issue today is demonetisation. Second issue is the Prime Minister’s corruption, which Rahul Gandhi has been talking about. In this, I will also add the GSPC issue, which involves a scam of Rs 6,000 crore.

“The ONGC (Oil and Natural Gas Corporation Limited) is bailing Modi out. The Comptroller and Auditor General has completely exposed Modi in the GSPC case when he was the Chief Minister of Gujarat. If that is not corruption, then what else is?” the Congress leader said.

In June, the Congress accused the Centre of arm-twisting India’s largest petroleum company ONGC to buy what the party said was “scam-tainted” Gujarat State Petroleum Corporation (GSPC) in order to cover up its Rs 20,000 crore scam.

A Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) report has accused the GSPC of squandering Rs 20,000 crore raised as loans from 15 public sector banks, the Congress said and accused Petroleum Minister Dharmemdra Pradhan of pressurising the officials to merge the GSPC with the Oil and Natural Gas Corporation (ONGC) to cover up the wrongdoings.

The opposition party alleged that the GSPC borrowed all the money at the behest of the then Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi between 2005 to 2014.