After having skipped the Opposition strategy meeting on two consecutive mornings, JD(U) leader Sharad Yadav surprised a hastily called afternoon meeting of Opposition leaders on Tuesday when he told them that JD(U) as a party has not yet decided that it is in favour of demonetisation.
This comes after Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar’s unequivocal support for the move and instructions to party cadre not to oppose it. Nitish replaced Sharad Yadav as the JD(U) chief earlier this year.
“I have been opposed to the move from day one… teen char din mein dekhiye kya hota hai [let us see how this pans out in the next three four days],” Sharad Yadav was quoted as telling the meeting that happened in the chamber of Ghulam Nabi Azad, Leader of the Opposition in Rajya Sabha.
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Sharad Yadav was the tallest non-Trinamool leader to attend the sit-in protest of West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee against demonetisation at Jantar Mantar last week.
Since then, however, Nitish has come out vocally in support of the move and Sharad Yadav’s absence on Monday had fuelled speculation that the picture of solidity of opposition unity had been dented by the JD(U)’s divergent line.
Nitish, who had been among the first non-BJP chief ministers to welcome demonetisation, is also among those chief ministers who are slated to be part of a sub-committee that the Centre is in the process of forming on demonetisation.
Sharad Yadav did not come for the strategy meeting Tuesday morning either but did attend a hurriedly convened meeting later in the day where he sought to allay fears that the Opposition ranks had been breached. He also assured them that he would attend the morning strategy meeting of Opposition parties Wednesday.
In the morning meeting, Opposition leaders discussed the need to be more visible and coordinated in their messaging to counter the government publicity machinery working overtime to make demonetisation seem more palatable.
It was decided that designated spokespersons from every party would go on television and print to highlight the negatives of the move and why the government’s pitch on black money is not correct.
It was also decided that all parties would coordinate their social media messaging by choosing common hashtags so as to present a united face. The hashtags have not been finalised yet.
Parties that attended the meeting included Congress, Trinamool, CPM, NCP and DMK. They decided to keep up the pressure on the government in Rajya Sabha by continuing to demand an apology from the prime minister and in the Lok Sabha by pressing for a discussion under a motion that allows voting. The BJD has already submitted a notice under rule 193 for discussion on demonetisation but the rule does not have a provision for voting.
Another issue that came up during the meeting was that of impromptu programmes organised by individual parties.
The immediate reason for the issue to be raised was a Congress protest that the Trinamool shunned on Monday citing lack of prior notice and an overlap with party chief Mamata Banerjee’s march in Kolkata against demonetisation. A decision was conveyed that no such last-minute protests or other programmes would be scheduled without taking other parties on board.
The Trinamool Congress, which is miffed with the proposed sub-committee of chief ministers, also expressed its opposition to it in the meeting saying this is not the face of the Opposition.
The names that have come up for the panel, besides Nitish, are those of Andhra Pradesh CM Chandrababu Naidu, Madhya Pradesh CM Shivraj Chouhan, Odisha CM Naveen Patnaik, Puducherry CM V Narayansamy and Tripura CM Manik Sarkar.