EW DELHI: It was a high-octane start to the Winter Session of Parliament with the opposition parties and the ruling BJP upping the ante on the demonetisation debate.
Inconvenience caused to the public was the rallying cry of opposition parties, while the BJP, in a firefighting mode, hollered real reforms were not possible without some pain and asked its netas to hit the streets to help the public waiting in lines for cash. West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee marched to the Rashtrapati Bhavan with the most unlikely allies - Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal, Shiv Sena, a long-time friend of the BJP and Omar Abdullah’s National Conference. The leaders met President Pranab Mukherjee and sought the former Finance Minister’s intervention to end the chaos.
The decibel levels were much higher in the Rajya Sabha, where remaining opposition parties also joined in the attack on the government, demanding Modi’s presence in the Upper House. Interestingly, the Congress chose to wield Anand Sharma as its opening speaker on the issue instead of its usual marksman on finance, P Chidambaram. Sharma for his part, took a dig at Modi’s speech last week claiming certain forces were out to eliminate him.
“Congress will not tolerate anyone planning to harm the Prime Minister of India,” he said, demanding the names of those holding accounts in Swiss banks be made public. With Uttar Pradesh polls around the corner, BSP chief Mayawati did not spare the opportunity, claiming the people of 5 states going to polls would punish the BJP. “It’s an immature decision taken in haste and the whole country feels it’s an economic emergency,” she said. Sitaram Yechury of the CPI(M) questioned how cashless transactions could happen overnight when 86 per cent of all financial dealings in the country are done with cash. He also alleged that the SBI had waived off `7,000 crore in bad loans. Finance Minister Arun Jaitley, however, claimed that the loans were ‘written off’ and not ‘waived’.
Sensing dissent, Prime Minister Narendra Modi made an effort to reach out to opposition leaders as soon as the session started. Modi along with Home Minister Rajnath Singh and Parliamentary Affairs Minister Anant Kumar walked to the opposition benches and met Congress chief Sonia Gandhi, TMC leaders Kalyan Banerjee and Sudip Bandyopadhyay.
He also spoke to deputy speaker of Lok Sabha M Thambidurai. But the effort did not seem to have borne any result. With patience of the general public also wearing thin, the BJP has started a “disinformation” campaign to counter the allegations made by the opposition parties. The party has asked its MPs and MLAs to rope in NGOs to explain the real reasons behind the move to people. The BJP and RSS workers would also set up Kar Sewa (voluntary service) camps to help out people facing difficulties, claimed the party. It is, however, to be seen if the frustrated and cash-crunched common man would seek vengeance in the ballot that is still months away. Financial pokhran: Page 2,8,11