Updated: December 27, 2016 10:49:55 am
Congress plans to unite the Opposition for an onslaught on the government looks to be a non-starter with most parties deciding to stay away from a joint press conference it has scheduled for Tuesday. Still miffed over Congress vice president Rahul Gandhi’s meeting with Prime Minister Narendra Modi on the last day of the winter session of Parliament, most Opposition leaders said the Congress did not consult or inform them about the agenda of the press conference.
Barring the Trinamool Congress, DMK, JD(S) and the RJD, most in the Opposition camp said they had decided to stay away from the Tuesday event. CPM general secretary Sitaram Yechury announced his party would not attend the press conference. Sources said Yechury, who is in Kolkata attending a party meeting, spoke to leaders of several parties which resulted in a coordinated boycott of the Congress event.
The Samajwadi Party, NCP, JD(U), CPI and AAP said they, too, would not participate. Sources in the BSP too indicated it was unlikely to attend. The JD(U)’s decision is significant because its leader Sharad Yadav had gone with the Congress to meet President Pranab Mukherjee on the last day of the winter session while the others had skipped — JD(U) and the Congress share power in Bihar.
TMC chief and West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee has reached New Delhi and is likely to attend the press conference. Party sources also indicated she may have a separate meeting later with the Congress leadership. Senior DMK leader Tiruchi Siva said he would attend the press conference. NCP spokesperson D P Tripathi told The Indian Express: “We are not going.”
In Kolkata, Yechury said: “We have decided to stay away from the press conference of Opposition parties convened by the Congress because there has been no proper consultation and coordination among the parties.”
CPI general secretary S Sudhakar Reddy said while his party wants broad unity among Opposition parties, it cannot attend a press conference without knowing what it was about. “We can attend a meeting, but we cannot attend a press conference without knowing what is going to be said,” Reddy told The Indian Express.
When contacted, JD(U) secretary general K C Tyagi said: “We are not going. What is the relevance in going there? If the discussion is on demonetisation, there is a lot of difference between the stand taken by Mamata Banerjee and the other Opposition parties. There is no common ground. If the meeting was to forge Opposition unity on such larger issues, then these things should have been discussed with senior leaders of all Opposition parties in advance. Homework is required before such meetings.”
“This meeting has neither any clearly-stated agenda, nor a common minimum programme. Such meetings are called after prior consultation among leaders of parties. But in this case, there has been no such discussion. All of a sudden, they (Congress leaders) have decided to hold a meeting and expect us to come. Nobody can bulldoze anyone to join,” he said.
Tyagi also took exception to Banerjee’s recent remarks about Nitish Kumar. “We neither use expressions like ‘a traitor’ about any chief minister, nor are we used to listening to such words about ourselves”, he said.
At the AICC briefing, senior Congress leader Jairam Ramesh said: “Those who will come will come… those who will not come will come in the future.”
“The biggest issue today is demonetisation… second issue is the corruption of the Prime Minister which Rahul Gandhi has raised… these are big times… and also how we coordinate our strategy in Parliament in the months to come,” Ramesh said.
Asked about Yechury’s remarks, Ramesh said: “Yechury also has local level issues to contend with. But I am sure that ultimately Yechury being the mature, national leader that he is, will recognise that to quote Mao ‘you have to walk on two legs’. One leg you fight local parties and on the other leg, you fight national parties. I am sure Yechury being a student of Mao knows he has to walk on two legs.”
Sonia Gandhi’s Political Secretary Ahmed Patel and Leader of Opposition in Rajya Sabha Ghulam Nabi Azad had spoken on phone with a number of Opposition leaders last week. The plan was to organise the event outside the AICC headquarters to avoid giving an impression that it was a “Congress event”.
Former Union Minister and RJD leader Jay Prakash Yadav, however, said his party will attend the meeting Tuesday. “Former Union Minister Prem Chand Gupta and I will attend the meeting. There is no difference on issues. So why should we not attend the meeting?” he said.
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