NEW DELHI: Government today braced itself for a stormy Winter Session of Parliament beginning tomorrow with the opposition presenting a united face in seeking to corner it over the demonetisation issue calling it a "currency scam" that needs to be probed.
The opposition also has a string of other issues like the surgical strikes across LoC, the situation in Jammu and Kashmir, OROP and the plight of farmers to rake up during the session that will last a month. A demand for constitution of a JPC to go into the demonetisation is also on the opposition agenda.
Ahead of the session, Prime Minister Narendra Modi met opposition leaders and sought their cooperation in the fight against black money and corruption for which, he said, the demonetisation exercise was undertaken. In his concluding remarks at an all-party meeting on the eve of the Winter Session, Modi spoke in support of simultaneous Lok Sabha and state assembly polls.
He pitched for state-funding of elections and asked parties to debate the issue. The government is willing to discuss all issues and answer the questions raised by the opposition, Modi said, hoping for a fruitful session as he recalled the passage of the GST Bill in the last session with the cooperation of all parties.
"We have launched a crusade against corruption, black money and fake currency, which is also behind cross-border terrorism. All parties should come together on this issue of national interest," he said.
However, an unrelenting opposition decided to step up its fight against the government during the session. Presenting a united face, arch rivals TMC and Left parties and SP and BSP, got together at a meeting convened by the main opposition Congress to formulate a joint strategy.
There were some reservations in the opposition over TMC's proposal for a march to Rashtrapati Bhawan tomorrow to petition the President against demonetisation.
The majority of the parties did not want to exhaust the option of going to the President on the very first day of the session and instead wanted to keep it for a later stage.
An unfazed TMC chief and West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee, however, asserted that she would go ahead with around 40 of her MPs to the President.
Leader of the Opposition in the Rajya Sabha Ghulam Nabi Azad alleged the decision to invalidate Rs 1000/500 currency notes was leaked in advance to some people, including BJP leaders, and called it probably the "biggest scam". He, however, added that his party is not for a rollback of the drive.
Perhaps for the first time since the Modi government came to power, a large section of the opposition led by the Congress has came together ahead of a session as its seeks to pin down the government on the demonetisation issue.
Congress, the Left parties and some others alleged that the demonetisation of Rs 500/1000 currency notes was a "big scam" and accused the Prime Minister of "leaking" information to BJP members in advance.
At a meeting of around 13 opposition parties including arch rivals TMC and CPI-M, besides BSP, SP, NCP, JD-U and DMK, their leaders unanimously concluded that they will go all out to take on the government on the issue. They, however, felt it was too early to approach the President and the matter may first be raised adequately in parliamentary forums.
The leaders will meet again tomorrow to finalize their strategy on the issue while agreeing at the meeting to use "all parliamentary tools including a demand for constituting a joint parliamentary committee to go into the issue and hold the government to account".
Various parties have separately given adjournment notices in Lok Sabha and for suspension of proceedings in Rajya Sabha to discuss the issue and highlight the plight of the common man. "There was an overwhelming consensus that there is no need to rush to Rashtrapati Bhawan on the very first day before bringing this issue before Parliament," Congress leader Ghulam Nabi Azad said after the meeting.
CPI-M leader Sitaram Yechury said government will have to allow the common people to use old currency notes for all white transactions till the time alternative arrangements are made. He also dubbed the move as "Tughlaq raj" (dictatorship), while taking a dig at the Modi government. His colleague Mohammed Salim alleged that there have been huge transactions in cash by leaders of BJP since April and termed it as a "currency scam" that needs to be probed.
Asked about the opposition's strategy for taking on the government on demonetisation, Salim said, "We will seek all alternative tools in a democracy, including a demand for constituting a joint parliamentary committee to go into the issue and hold the government to account".
"We will unearth this currency scam and taken on the government. Prime Minister's step of trying to help them is actually insulting the common man, including his mother who had to stand in the queue (to withdraw money)," Salim said.
He said government should do something so that the people get some relief and are not harassed. Earlier in the day, top Congress leaders discussed the strategy for the session, where it is likely to forcefully take on the government on the manner demonetisation was implemented and other issues.
At the all-party meeting, Modi, while speaking about simultaneous polls said, "A crucial problem is how to make political funding transparent. How to implement state funding of elections. Let all political parties debate it and come to a conclusion. Let's remove the question mark which exists against those in public life. "Polls happen separately. Let there be one election, simultaneous elections," he said, seeking a consensus on the issue.