The Modi government should brace for a firestorm in the Winter Session of Parliament which kicks off today.
With millions of people crippled by the Centre's sudden move to scrap Rs.500 and Rs.1000 notes, the Opposition parties are combining forces to unleash their collective wrath against its poorly planned and terribly executed demonetisation drive, which has ended up costing lives and livelihoods. Political rivals are also expected to raise the controversy of BJP leaders getting tipped off before the Modi government went public about demonetization on 8 November.
On the eve of the Winter Session, Congress Party Vice President Rahul Gandhi said, "The Congress Party is for taking on corruption and black money.The Q is why should millions of poor people be inconvenienced in this manner." "I have asked Manmohan Singhji & a number of economists, most of them say there is no economic rationale to this decision," he added.
While experts are divided on how far demonetisation will help to combat black money, the consensus is that the government should have been far better prepared before rolling out a plan, which, for a week now, has thrown into disarray the lives of millions of people. Instead of getting a grip on the situation, the authorities are still failing to make enough new notes available, while cues at ATMs and banks only appear to be getting longer.
At an all-party meeting on Tuesday, Modi asked for all parties to support his government's demonetisation drive, but his request is likely to go unheeded. Not only are the Congress Party and Lalu Prasad Yadav's Rashtriya Janata Dal planning to protest demonetisation, arch rivals such as the All India Trinamool Congress and the Left parties, and Mayawati's Bahujan Samaj Party and Mulayam Singh Yadav's Samajwadi Party, are coming together to protest against demonetisation. Both the TMC and the Aam Aadmi Party have called for a rolling back of the plan.
Although they appear to be more or less on the same page over attacking the Modi government, not everyone has came out in favour of Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee's suggestion to march to the Rashtrapati Bhawan on the first day of the Winter Session.
Banerjee, however, is still going ahead with the meeting. "The situation is serious. Very grim. People are suffering.We will meet the Hon. President tomorrow, no matter what," she said.
Two parties, Nitish Kumar's Janata Dal (United) and Naveen Patnaik's Biju Janata Dal, have not banded together with the rest of the Opposition parties, but they are expected to speak out against the implementation of the demonetisation drive on their own terms.
The Congress Party only has 44 seats in the Lok Saba, but when it comes to disrupting and stonewalling the Modi government's agenda in Parliament, the Grand Old Party has managed to punch above its weight since the BJP came to power in the summer of 2014.
The Modi government also faces a huge challenge in the Rajya Sabha, where the BJP has managed to increase its numbers to 55, but it still comes in second to the Congress Party which has 60 seats in the upper house.
Delay is the last thing which the Modi government needs right now. It has at least ten bills including The Consumer Protection Bill, 2015 and Maternity Benefits (Bill), 2016, in the pipeline. And still pending is the passage of supporting legislations to the Constitutional Amendment Bill passed in the Monsoon Session, earlier this year. These supporting legislations are necessary for the government to roll out the landmark in April, next year.
But if the Opposition has its way, the Winter Session is likely to be marred by protests, marches, and shouting matches, with the Speakers of both houses struggling to be heard before calling for adjournments.
In addition to the problems caused by demonetisation, the Opposition is also expected to raise the suicide of an army veteran over the One Rank One Pension scheme, the plight of farmers, the unrest which gripped Kashmir, earlier this year, and the surgical strikes against the terror havens across the Line of Control.
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