New Delhi, Dec 27: The Congress attempt to forge the unity of opposition on the note-ban issue proved to be a damp quiz as the major parties including CPM, SP, JD(U) and NCP stayed away from the meeting convened by the Congress party on Tuesday.
These parties, which are also opposed to the #demonetization decision, said that they were not attending the meeting convened by the Congress. Only Mamta Banerjee, West Bengal Chief Minister and Trinamool Congress supremo saved the Congress from political disgrace.
With these ‘key secular parties’ ignoring the Congress invitation for the meeting, the clouds darkened over the Congress attempt to forge a ‘workable opposition’ to Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s leadership.
While CPM, SP, NCP and JD(U) made it clear they were not attending, the few willing partners only nodded to a low-key representation for a meeting seen as a Rahul Gandhi initiative. The Congress vice-president will lead the meeting as Congress President Sonia Gandhi is not expected to be present.
West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee emerged as the saving grace for Congress' meeting. She arrived in the capital on Monday evening to calm the nerves of the hosts even as Congress fended off questions on absentees. “Whoever comes tomorrow will come. Those who don’t come tomorrow will come the next time. Those who will come, you will see tomorrow,” Congress spokesperson Jairam Ramesh said.
While some like CPM complained that Congress did not consult them, others like JD(U) ducked questions on Rahul's allegations - on the basis of entries found in raids on Sahara and Birla groups - that payoffs were made to Modi as Gujarat CM.
JD(U) said the matter was sub judice and its netas pointed to Banerjee's attack on Bihar CM Nitish Kumar who she described as ‘gaddar’ (traitor) for not supporting the opposition on demonetisation.
NCP tweeted that no party representative would be present at the meeting. Apart from Trinamool Congress, only Rashtriya Janata Dal and JD(S) have confirmed their presence.
The situation marks a setback for Congress which took care to humour allies by choosing the ‘neutral venue’ of Constitution Club instead of the Congress office for the meeting billed as a precursor to ramping up pressure on ‘notebandi’ and alleged corruption by the Prime Minister.
Congress plans to launch a nationwide agitation on these issues. The prime objective behind the event is to repair cracks in the 16-party opposition bloc that emerged after Rahul’s decision to meet the PM as part of a Congress delegation seeking farm loan waiver for UP. The allies did not like Rahul visiting Modi and kept away from the all-party delegation which met the President on the last day of the Parliament session.
Modi had sought a 50-day period for return of normalcy on the currency front, which is ending on December 30. The opposition parties are expected to up the attack on the Centre after that. Ramesh claimed there were regional compulsions at play, like CPM unable to share a platform with its Bengal rival TMC, and SP and BSP not wanting to be seen with Congress in view of coming state elections.
Referring to CPM leader Sitaram Yechury who announced his party's boycott, Ramesh said, "Sitaram Yechury has local issues to contend with. But being a mature national leader, he will recognise that, to quote Mao Tse Tung, you have to 'walk on two legs' - on one leg, you fight local parties and on the other leg, you fight national parties."
NCP leader D P Tripathi said, "We will not be going for the meeting." JD(S) secretary general Danish Ali said his party will attend the event "in the interest of opposition unity" despite being a rival to Congress in Karnataka.