NEW DELHI: Nearly 200 Members of Parliament from the opposition parties on Wednesday formed a
human chain to protest the cascading after-effects of demonetisation just outside Parliament, under the Mahatma Gandhi statue, providing an extra touch of legitimacy. If the decision to demonetise hit the unsuspecting population and their political leaders like a tsunami, the swelling ranks of protesters among parliamentarians appeared to be no less of a rising wave.
Arch rivals, AIADMK and DMK were sharing space, if not exactly holding hands. The CPI-M and TMC, bitter Bengal rivals, too stood together. In short, the non-BJP/NDA parties were united, leaving the government to look a little cornered, if not isolated. The Houses barely ran and the Lok Sabha was adjourned rather early despite Prime Minister Narendra Modi putting in an appearance.
For the Opposition, the protests took the lead — one in Parliament forecourt and another at Jantar Mantar. The latter was led by Bengal CM and TMC chief Mamata Banerjee, with others like JD-U leader Sharad Yadav, NCP’s D P Tripathi and Samajwadi Party MP Jaya Bachchan and her ‘young friends’ from AAP, joining her.
After the morning protests, Congress leader Rahul Gandhi addressing a make-shift presser, described the demonetisation move as “the world’s biggest impromptu financial experiment”.
If he and his party were insisting on a joint parliamentary probe into how the currency change was rolled out, others were variously asking for relief for the common man and woman as also an explanation, the raison d’être, of the move from the PM, no less.
BSP chief Mayawati made the most forceful point asking for clarification from the PM, while alleging he was “running scared” from facing Parliament. If they were divided on their demands, the Opposition was united in their opposition to the “cavalier manner” in which demonetisation was handled by the government. Even a friendly party like AIADMK submitted a memorandum demanding that cooperative banks be opened for internal currency conversion, to help distressed farmers.
Rahul, meanwhile, reiterated that he and his party believed that the move was “leaked” to a few industrialist friends of BJP leaders. Well, this allegation is the basis on which a JPC is being demanded.
And the demand, if not met in some form, may lead to a wash-out of the Winter session. "What the PM has done is the biggest impromptu financial experiment in the world. He did not ask anyone. Finance
minister did not know. The chief economic adviser did not know.
This decision is not that of the finance minister. This is the Prime Minister's decision," Rahul Gandhi. Also hitting out at the PM for not speaking in the House, he repeated, "He can give lectures to pop concert where 'naach gaana' is going on. 200 MPs are saying they want him to tell the nation why he took this decision. PM does not want to come to Parliament.
Why is PM afraid of going inside? He is obviously anxious to avoid facing the House." Taking a dig at the "emotional speeches" of the PM, he said that he may get more "emotional if he hears us". Not not to be outshone, Mamata-Didi launched a scathing attack from Jantar Mantar. Making a rough Hindi translation of a colloquial Bengali saying, Didi thundered, “Desher toh barota baja diya”. Meaning,
the country is in ruins, petrified, Cinderella like, at midnight.
Mamata's senior party MP Saugata Roy later defending her statements, claimed she "is really bothered about the long term impact of this move -- rural economy and semi-urban, largely informal has come
to a standstill. And, she is not standing on prestige on who should lead the Opposition".
However, that's a question that hung in the air. Whether Mamata stole Rahul's show. Nonetheless, there are
going to be more protests. CPI leader D Raja said that a Bharat Bandh can be expected on Monday.