POLITICS

Cracks Show In Opposition Unity As The Left Decides To Stay Away From 27 December's Anti-Demonetisation Meet

JD(U) too is unsure about attendance.

26/12/2016 8:55 PM IST | Updated 26/12/2016 9:14 PM IST
PTI

NEW DELHI -- Cracks were visible in the Opposition unity ahead of Tuesday's meeting convened by Congress to ramp up attack on demonetisation and alleged "personal corruption" of the Prime Minister, with Left parties and JD(U) unlikely to attend it.

While the Left parties announced they are staying away, the JD(U) also gave hints that it may follow suit. Congress is part of the JD(U)-led Nitish Kumar government in Bihar.

There was no immediate word from SP and BSP, while NCP's Tariq Anwar, who was to attend, is unable to come to Delhi as he had to cancel his plans due to his mother's death in Patna.

Congress leader Jairam Ramesh downplayed the plans of several parties skipping the Opposition meeting that will be followed by a joint press conference. He also cited local and regional compulsions for some parties not to be together on the same platform.

"Whoever comes tomorrow will come. Those who don't come tomorrow will come the next time. Those who will come, you will see tomorrow," said Ramesh striking a philosophical note.

He, however, dismissed suggestions that tomorrow's meeting was a "tea party" like the one in 1998 which ultimately led to the downfall of the Vajpayee government.

Ramesh said, "The biggest issue today is demonetisation and the second issue is corruption by the Prime Minister, which will be the main issues before tomorrow's meet."

On the eve of deliberations, Rahul Gandhi today held a meeting of all Congress general secretaries and State Congress presidents at his residence to discuss the situation.

A senior party leader, who declined to be identified, likened tomorrow's parleys with that of the Shimla conclave in 2003 which saw Congress pitching for unity of secular forces to oust the then NDA government led by Vajpayee.

The meeting is seen as an attempt on the part of the Congress to paper over the cracks that developed when several Opposition parties skipped the joint Opposition march to Rashtrapati Bhawan on December 16 over demonetisation.

They were apparently annoyed over Congress Vice President Rahul Gandhi meeting the Prime Minister earlier that day on the issue of farmers' problems, especially in poll-bound Uttar Pradesh and Punjab.

"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 parties," CPI(M) general secretary Sitaram Yechury said in Kolkata today.

West Bengal Chief Minister and TMC supremo Mamata Banerjee, who has been vocal against demonetisation, will attend tomorrow's meeting, sources said.

She will attend the briefing at Constitution Club along with other Opposition leaders including representatives from DMK and RJD, sources added.

Yechury said, "Most of the parties were neither consulted nor informed about what will be the agenda of the meeting. Several Opposition parties have reservation about the way the meeting has been convened."

CPI National Secretary D Raja said there should have been "more prior consultations on the date and agenda" of the meeting of Opposition parties.

"Lack of such prior consultation and discussion has caused difficulties. We could have got an opportunity to discuss within our parties and taking a position," he said, adding that all parties have already made their own plans.

JD(U) spokesperson K C Tyagi said, "The meeting has no agenda, not even a common minimum programme. It is unlikely to arrive at any conclusion."

He did not give a direct reply on whether his party will attend the exercise. Sources, however, said the Nitish Kumar-led party won't attend it. Tyagi noted that Mamata Banerjee-led TMC, which will attend the meeting, has a different view on demonetisation than other parties'.

He also dismissed murmurs in Opposition camp over Nitish Kumar's support to demonetisation, saying his party has been at the forefront of opposition unity and cited the example of Bihar Assembly polls.

The Opposition meet is being held at a time when the Narendra Modi dispensation has completed half its term and the ruling BJP is going whole hog to capture key Uttar Pradesh, where Assembly polls will take place in few months.

Congress is striving for uniting the Opposition on the issue of Rahul Gandhi's charge of "personal corruption" against the Prime Minister and plans are afoot for a joint press conference by its President Sonia Gandhi and opposition leaders on December 27.

Meanwhile, taking potshots at Congress after over decisions of several parties to keep away from the meeting, BJP said the balloon of their "so-called unity" has burst even before it could have floated.

"It was never a positive move but an outcome of negative politics against Prime Minister Narendra Modi. It only shows that even Opposition parties have rejected Rahul Gandhi whose credibility has already gone down among the masses," its national secretary Shrikant Sharma said.

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