Need united Opposition, bandhs will only lead to more suffering: Mamata Banerjee on demonetisation

The strike call by the Left parties is being perceived as an attempt at trying to lead the charge on the anti-demonetisation campaign, of which Mamata has been one of fiercest critics

Written by Aniruddha Ghosal | Kolkata | Published:November 27, 2016 3:57 am
mamata-759 Mamata Banerjee after a party meeting at her residence in Kolkata on Saturday. Express

THE TRINAMOOL Congress refused to extend support to the 12-hour statewide strike called by Left Front on Monday against demonetisation, with the party accusing CPM of covertly trying to help the BJP. Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee, who had sought the Left’s support in the movement against demonetisation, on Saturday stressed on the need for a “united Opposition” and the need for “constructive criticism, which seeks to find a solution”.

While speaking to The Sunday Express, Mamata said: “We are against bandhs and strikes. This strike will increase the suffering of the common man. The state is already suffering because everything from trade to industry is in a state of bandh. The Opposition needs to remain united. I have always believed in constructive criticism that seeks to find a solution.”

The strike call by the Left parties, including CPM and CPI, along with their counterparts in Tripura and Kerala, is being perceived as an attempt at trying to lead the charge on the anti-demonetisation campaign, of which Mamata has been one of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s fiercest critics. The 12-hour “general strike and hartal” in Bengal from 6 am on Monday will exempt banks, ATMs and postal services, the Left had maintained.

The Trinamool, however, has claimed that the Left, whose support has been dwindling in the state and was trounced in last week’s bypolls in Bengal, was trying to “piggy back” Mamata’s political programme on note ban.

The CM is scheduled to lead a rally in central Kolkata on Monday — the day of strike — over the same issue.

Minutes after the Left’s announcement, Mamata disowned the bandh. “In Delhi, at the meeting of Opposition parties, a bandh was never discussed or agreed to. We do not KOLKATAsupport any bandh,” she tweeted.

A source close to Mamata said: “Look at the way the Left took this decision. Parliament concludes, the leaders meet before the weekend and give no time to anyone to prepare and announce a bandh on a Monday. They had just called another bandh a few months ago… This form of politics hurts common people, who are already suffering.”

Accusing the CPM of covertly helping BJP, Trinamool general secretary Subrata Bakshi said on Saturday: “The Left Front is actually trying to help BJP on demonetisation and that is why it has called this strike to increase the sufferings of the masses. It should have refrained from calling the strike.”

“On November 28, Trinamool will take out a rally from College Square to Esplanade to protest against demonetisation… Mamatadi had expressed her displeasure over the strike call and said that people don’t support strikes and bandhs,” he added.

Transport Minister Suvendu Adhikari said the department would run 2,600 more buses to maintain normal life. “Vehicles that get damaged during the strike will be given compensation by the government,” he added.

The Left, however, has cited Mamata’s lack of support to the bandh as evidence of her “hypocrisy”.

Left Front Chairman Biman Bose said on Saturday: “If she does not support the strike, it will expose her political hypocrisy and show that she does not really care about the people. She is only in it for political mileage.”

He added: “The strike call is necessary to register protest against demonetisation, which caused sufferings to the people. We have kept banks, ATMs, health and milk outside the ambit of the strike. So that people don’t face any problem.”

On Trinamool’s opposition to the strike, CPM state secretary Surjya Kanta Mishra said, “We are happy that TMC is not supporting the strike call. We have given the call to oppose the anti-people decision of the Centre. Whoever is serious about the issue will not oppose the strike call.”

State Congress chief Adhir Chowdhury said his party decided to extend moral support to the strike by Left parties. State BJP president Dilip Ghosh, however, said they will see whether Trinamool is really serious about foiling the strike called by the Left. “Recently we have seen them working together as friends against us in Delhi. So, we want to see whether Trinamool really practice what they preach,” he said.