NEW DELHI: Terming the Centre’s sudden demonetisation as an “anti-people’’ move that has thrown life in urban and rural India out of gear, prominent non-BJP and non-NDA leaders took to the street and courted arrest across the country on Monday.
AAP convenor and Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal first got into a Twitter war with Culture Minister Mahesh Sharma over how much money he was spending on his son’s wedding. His old friend, Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar, however, managed to finally carry his party, the JD(U), away from the protest itch, leaving his party’s prominent parliamentarians such as Sharad Yadav and K C Tyagi missing in action. In Patna and elsewhere in Bihar, the protests were held by the JD(U)’s allies — the RJD, Congress and the AAP — in an indication of a slight change in the political matrix.
In Kolkata, West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee took out a parallel protest march to outdo her Left rivals, where she threatened to storm Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s residence to oust him from the seat of power, “for causing unending miseries to the common man”. She demanded the restoration of the old notes till enough new currency notes flow into the market.
Mamata, however, seemed as much up against the Modi government as against her local rival, the Left Front. Though she marched on the streets of Kolkata, megaphone in hand, she ensured the Left-inspired bandh failed.
Surprisingly, the Left march led by CPM general secretary Sitaram Yechury in New Delhi was far bigger than the one his politburo colleagues Biman Bose and Suryakanta Mishra took out in the party’s old citadel, Kolkata. By all accounts, the bandh got best observed in the Left-ruled Kerala and Tripura, as expected.
The Congress made it clear that it was only expressing aakrosh (anger) and not supporting any bandh. And the party’s biggest protest marches took place in Jammu, Karnataka and Maharashtra.
The NDA ally Shiv Sena, which had played footsie with the Opposition for a while, decided to restrict their critique on demonetisation to verbal attack and avoided street protests.
In Tamil Nadu, the ruling AIADMK lit into the Centre’s “ill-conceived” and badly implemented currency reform in a scathing article in its mouthpiece, and demanded a statement from the Prime Minister in Parliament. But the Jayalalithaa-led party refused to be drawn into the street politics of its rival, the DMK led by M Karunanidhi, Congress and the Left parties. Leaders of the latter group protested and courted arrest.