POLITICS

Is Opposition Unity Over Demonetisation Starting To Crack?

Upset with Rahul Gandhi, key political parties like SP, BSP, and Left miss meeting with the President.

16/12/2016 5:57 PM IST | Updated 16/12/2016 6:27 PM IST
Hindustan Times via Getty Images
Opposition members check watches, look at their phone, while staging a protest near the Gandhi Statue inside Parliament premises over demonetisation, on 8 December, 2016 in New Delhi, India.

Six key opposition parties stayed away from a crucial meeting with President Pranab Mukherjee on Friday. The meeting had a single purpose--to question the NDA government's decision to demonetise higher currency notes.

The parties that stayed away from the meeting include the two main left Parties--the CPI and CPI(M)--the Samajwadi Party, Bahujan Samajwadi Paty and Nationalist Congress Party (NCP). Neither of them signed the joint petition that was submitted to the President.

Yet, the opposition managed to cobble together a united--albeit shaky--front. The diminished delegation of opposition parties that met the President had members from Congress, Janata Dal (United), Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD), Trinamool Congress (TMC) and the Revolutionary Socialist Party (RSP). Former Prime Minister Mammohan Singh, Congress President Sonia Gandhi, Congress Vice President Rahul Gandhi and senior JD(U) leader Sharad Yadav were some of the prominent members of the delegation.

The crack in the unity among the opposition appeared when Rahul Gandhi led a Congress delegation to Prime Minister Narendra Modi today. The Congress highlighted problems being faced by farmers and demanded a loan waiver. Elections are due in Uttar Pradesh and Punjab next year. Rahul meeting the PM without the others was seen as the Congress trying to out-manoeuvre the rest and send a signal to the electorate in UP and Punjab.

Sources told HuffPost India that BSP Chief Mawayati learnt about the sudden meeting between Rahul Gandhi and the Prime Minister when she was in Rajya Sabha. Upset that the Congress had taken up issues concerning Uttar Pradesh without consultations, she then reached out SP and Left leaders in the upper house. It was then that SP, Left and BSP decided to stay away from meeting the President.

Congress' decision to meet the PM was taken unilaterally and was not acceptable, NCP MP and former aviation minister Praful Patel told reporters. The NCP representative did reach the President's house but left without attending the meeting.

"I am surprised," RSP member of the Parliament from Kerala N K Premchandran told HuffPost India when asked why two main left parties didn't turn up for the meeting with the President. RSP was part of the delegation that met the President.

The Congress predictably tried to downplay the fast emerging fissures. "Just because some are absent from an event doesn't mean that unity among opposition is over," senior Congress MP and former Union Law minister M Veerappa Moily told HuffPost India.

CPI(M) General Secretary Sitaram Yechury, however, further reinforced that unity among opposition parties was fragile. Speaking to reporters, he said instead of meeting the President it was time to take the protest to the streets and organise people.

Trinamool Congress later conveyed to the upset partners–-the SP and BSP--that it understood their decision. "Even we were taken by surprise but our chief Mamata Banerjee was committed to take the issue up with the President," a senior TMC member told HuffPost India.

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