NEW DELHI: It began with a march to Rashtrapati Bhavan. It is about to end with a march to Rashtrapati Bhavan. In between, the winter session of Parliament got washed out and the Opposition ranks swelled from six to 16.
The drive to Rashtrapati Bhavan on Friday—the last day of the winter session—will be led by Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi and 16 parties will be part of it. The first march to petition the President, in the immediate aftermath of demonetisation, was led by West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee. Six parties, including NDA ally Shiv Sena, had joined. Still quite critical of the demonetisation, the Sena however has opted out of Opposition protests.
Significantly, bickering within the Opposition ranks has been negligible. The Trinamool Congress in particular, for instance, is not standing on prestige. The Congress and the Left had stayed off from Mamata’s march, citing strategic difference, but TMC MPs “are not staying away from tomorrow’s meeting with the president’’, Derek O’Brien informed the media.
The Tirnamool’s main rival in West Bengal, the CPM, too announced with a flourish that the Opposition would be petitioning the President on the Parliament logjam, with a two-pronged memorandum. One would be on the real reason behind the washed out session, and the other on the fallout of demonetisation.
The president, however, has lost his cool and blamed the opposition for the continuous disruption of both the houses of Parliament. So it’s clearly to keep unity and protest alive that the protest march to the constitutional head of the state is being undertaken. What could be a bit worrisome for the government is that the Opposition has stuck together over the entire session.
Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar, who initially backed the government on demonetisation, appeared rather restive on Thursday. With no relief in sight and the currency shortage quite palpable, he issued an ultimatum to the Centre, saying his support couldn’t be taken for granted for an unlimited time period.
The Congress, meanwhile, decided to hit the road. “Our vice-president will be travelling across the country to highlight the plight this decision has caused the people, show solidarity with them,’’ party spokesperson Randeep Singh Surjewala said. All Comgress MPs have been asked to fan out to build pressure on the government, he added.