Barring the BJD, the entire Opposition — from the Congress to arch rivals SP and BSP, AIADMK and DMK, and Left and TMC — came together on Wednesday for a joint protest outside the House over the continuing cash crunch. They also decided to observe a nationwide “protest day” on November 28. Over 200 MPs from 14 parties, including the AIADMK which has remained quiet on the issue so far, joined the symbolic protest in front of the statue of Mahatma Gandhi in Parliament. While SP leader Mulayam Singh Yadav and BSP chief Mayawati were missing, their MPs were present.
Opposition leaders later held a meeting and decided to give a joint protest call to take the fight from Parliament to the streets. However, differences persisted on whether and when to meet President Pranab Mukherjee. The Left parties are not too keen about meeting the President. Admitting the differences, CPM general secretary Sitaram Yechury quoted Mao to say they would be “marching separately and striking together”.
Yechury said November 28 would be observed as “aakrosh diwas” by all the parties across the country. In Left strongholds like Kerala and Tripura, the protest could transform into a bandh. CPI leader D Raja said the Left parties would observe a week-long protest from November 24-30.
Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi alleged a “scam” behind the decision to scrap Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 notes. “We feel there is a scam behind this decision. We feel that the Prime Minister and their (party) president had told their people about this decision in advance. So there should be a JPC probe. The Opposition is united. Over 200 MPs were here… The government should say why the decision was taken,” said Rahul.
Asked who was leading the Opposition, he said the voice of the poor was driving the protest.
“What the Prime Minister has done is the world’s biggest impromptu financial experiment. The Prime Minister has not asked anyone about this. It is being said that the Finance Minister did not know about it. The chief economic adviser was not in the know. This decision was not taken by the Finance Minister. This is the Prime Minister’s decision and, because of this decision, crores of people have suffered major losses. The Prime Minister can speak at a concert…but he will not come to Parliament,” said Rahul.
“Why is the Prime Minister scared to come to the House? There should be some reason why he is afraid,” he added.
Rahul said there was an unprecedented surge in bank deposits right before the decision. “The BJP in Bengal and other states knew (about the decision)… The Finance Minister did not know, but those in the BJP organisation knew. And the BJP’s industrialist and trader friends also knew,” he said.
He said the Opposition was in favour of fighting black money and corruption. “The question is why are one billion people being harassed in this manner. It is a question of complete centralisation of power. A country cannot be run in this manner. You have hit the economy. The economy was running well… And you have given the economy a terrible jolt. You have finished farmers, workers and small traders,” he said.
Rahul said it was shameful that no obituary reference was made in Parliament about the people who had died because of this decision.
“The Modi government has not demonetised money, but demonetised the people. Thirteen days have passed, but people are still standing in queues outside banks and ATMs have no money. All Congress units will protest across the country on November 28,” said Congress communication department head Randeep Surjewala.
Meanwhile, the AIADMK’s decision to join the protest came as a surprise, although there was indication about the party’s change of heart on Tuesday itself when its members joined the Opposition ranks in the Lok Sabha.
“As per the instruction of our Chief Minister, the AIADMK is opposing the implementation of the policy of demonetisation. It is causing inconvenience to rural people. That is why we are opposing the implementation of the demonetisation,” said AIADMK leader in Rajya Sabha A Navaneethakrishnan.