Congress President Sonia Gandhi’s attempts to parade a united opposition against the demonetization and to highlight the alleged corruption charges against Prime Minister Narendra Modi is coming a cropper with the Left and the JD(U), its ally in Bihar deciding to stay away from Tuesday meeting.
It was supposed to be a big show of strength after leading an entire opposition during the recently concluded winter session of Parliament. The move set by Gandhi was seen to revive this unity, after it went to a toss on the last day of the session when Congress Vice-President Rahul Gandhi went alone to meet the Prime Minister without consulting other parties. A senior party leader drew parallels between Gandhi’s earlier attempts to supervise opposition unity following party’s Shimla conclave in 2003 which led to the ouster of the then NDA government led by Vajpayee. Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi are expected to attend the meeting. Off late, Sonia Gandhi has been avoiding public appearances owing to her ill health.
Communist Party of India (Marxist) CPIM National General Secretary Sitaram Yechury was the first to publicly decline invitation to attend the joint Congress sponsored programme. “A press conference is called after consultation with all the parties concerned and then the day and time is fixed,” he said. But a confident Congress spokesman Jairam Ramesh, while admitting that some parties have expressed reservations said they will join latter, but there will be a united show of parties concerned about the current crises.
There was no immediate confirmation from either the Samajwadi Party (SP) or the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP). Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) leader Tariq Anwar has also expressed inability to come to Delhi on Tuesday.
Janata Dal (U) leader KC Tyagi said his party had not yet decided whether to attend or not, but it would first like to know what the agenda was. He added that no “common minimum programme” has been decided on and pointed out that all the opposition parties do not have the same stand on note ban. The increasing proximity between the TMC and the Congress seems to have upset the Left. So far confirmations have come from Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) and Rashtriya janata Dal (RJD) only.
Ramesh cited local and regional compulsions for some parties not to be together on the same platform. “Whoever comes tomorrow will come and those who won’t will come the next time. Whoever comes tomorrow, you will see,” said Ramesh striking a philosophical note. He said the party will highlight two issues to take on the government both inside the Parliament and on the streets across the country. Rahul Gandhi also presided a meeting of state leaders at his residence on Monday evening, directing them to focus on two issues—demonetization as well as the corruption charges against the Prime Minister.
Yechuri, who was the first to question Congress’ attempts of uniting opposition, said that a few days ago, he had told Congress interlocutors to reply to his three questions—Who all would be attending the meeting? What were the issues that would be highlighted? And whether there was going to be a joint action against the demonetization decision? “But, I have got no reply,” he said. Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee arrived here to attend the joint opposition meeting.
The entries in the Sahara diary, which has become a weapon in the hands of Rahul Gandhi has been vehemently denied by former Delhi Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit. “It is all hearsay. There is no iota of truth in the allegations. I totally reject these allegations,” she said. She is also Congress party’s Chief Ministerial candidate for the Uttar Pradesh elections to be held in 2017.
Reacting to her statement, Ramesh said his party was only demanding an independent probe into the ‘Sahara diaries’ in which Dikshit and some other chief ministers also purportedly figure. “There should be an independent probe into whoever’s name is there,” he said.
He also demanded an independent probe against all those BJP leaders who allegedly knew of the demonetization decision before the Prime Minister announced it on November 8. He also asked for investigation into Ahmedabad District Cooperative Bank, which had received Rs 500 crore deposits within two days of demonetization.