The Winter Session of Parliament, that began Wednesday, has been rendered unusual by the government’s move for demonetisation. It’s not just the Opposition parties that joined forces to censure the government over the way it has implemented the decision to withdraw the high value notes, but also the Shiv Sena.
At the same time, it was evident the Opposition parties had differences among themselves on tactics. Led by West Bengal CM Mamata Banerjee’s Trinamul Congress, some 40 Opposition MPs marched to Rashtrapati Bhavan on Wednesday to protest against the decision and demand that the demonetisation be rolled back. The TMC was joined by the AAP and J&K’s National Conference.
It was interesting, though, that this group wasn’t joined by any other Opposition leaders or groups, which raised their concerns over this in a discussion in the Rajya Sabha. Instead, it was joined by Shiv Sena, a government party, although the Sena technically doesn’t oppose Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s move to withdraw the Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 currency notes. Its concern was that ordinary citizens’ interests weren’t kept in mind while giving effect to it. Yet the Mumbai regional party chose to march with those who would like demonetisation to be cancelled.
Ms Banerjee lobbied with the Congress, CPM, JD(U) and others to join the march. But the latter felt differently, and said the option of a parliamentary discussion should be exhausted first. The real reason could well be that the option of protesting before the President was eschewed as the TMC supremo had taken the lead there. While such tactical differences within Opposition ranks were plainly visible, the demonetisation issue has been in the news all across the country.
In view of all this it should cause no surprise if at a later stage there is a tactical convergence — possibly on the issue of demanding that the government open an inquiry into various aspects relating to demonetisation. The most notable of these is the allegation — being shared widely in diverse circles — that the BJP had given its state units early warning on the move to demonetise, and this had allowed them to convert their old currencies, a privilege denied to other political parties. Since the debate is taking place in the backdrop of the coming Assembly elections in Uttar Pradesh and four other states next year, this could be a strong consideration all around.