Demonetization row: Government, Opposition play wait and watch game

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As the war of nerves over demonetization casts a shadow on business in Parliament, the Government and Opposition are hoping the other side will blink first to find a way out of the Parliament logjam. With the deadlock continuing in both Houses, Congress has convened a meeting of Opposition parties on Monday morning to discuss their strategy, in a bid to ensure Opposition unity in the face off with the ruling side. Congress sources ruled out any change in the stand of the party, which has been insisting on an adjournment motion.Meanwhile, government floor managers are poring over past precedence of adjournment motions, in a bid to justify the Speaker's rejection of the Opposition demand. Over the past two decades, Lok Sabha has held discussions under adjournment motions 16 times–seven during Congress-led UPA I and five in the Vajpayee regime. However, the number of demands for adjournment motions rejected by governments, cutting across party lines, is much higher. Former Lok Sabha secretary general PDT Achary said traditionally Chairs have disallowed adjournment motions. "But, since in any vote, it is the majority that counts, it should not be a cause for worry. The motion involves adjournment of regular business of the House to discuss a serious matter. Generally governments don't like it," he said. However, he recalled how Somnath Chatterjee, who was the Speaker during UPA I, was not averse to accepting notices for adjournment motion. "He used to say it was the right of a member to move such a motion and duty of the Speaker to look at the issue based on its merit and consider it if the matter was serious enough." While the Modi government is open to suspending all business of the House to discuss demonetization, it is reluctant to accept a motion that entails voting. With the Shiv Sena, the BJP's ally, having opposed demonetization, a vote could expose the differences within NDA. Prime Minister Narendra Modi had said at an all-party meeting on the eve of the session that a united message should go from Parliament that all parties were together in the fight against black money. In Rajya Sabha, where the Opposition is demanding the presence of the Prime Minister, the ruling side is insisting on an apology from leader of Opposition in the House Ghulam Nabi Azad for his remarks comparing the deaths after demonetization to those in the Uri attack. "We are not saying the Prime Minister should sit all through the debate. But he can come for a while and intervene. He is speaking about it outside. Why can't he speak inside the House?" said CPI leader and Rajya Sabha MP D Raja. The Opposition is also insisting on a JPC to probe, alleging a leak of the November 8 decision. Government sources said there was no question of the demand being accepted. The Prime Minister's veiled attack on the Opposition—particularly West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee and BSP supremo Mayawati— on Sunday at a rally in Agra has sharpened the battlelines. Without naming either of them, he spoke of "chit funds thriving on blessings of political class" and "those who took money for MLAs tickets". Mayawati retaliated saying "the people, including those in Uttar Pradesh, will take the Modi-led government to task for implementing their demonetization drive without prior planning." Differences within NDA While the Modi government is open to suspending all business of the House to discuss demonetization, it is reluctant to accept a motion that entails voting. With the Shiv Sena, the BJP's ally, having opposed demonetization, a vote could expose the differences within NDA. Prime Minister Narendra Modi had said at an all-party meeting on the eve of the session that a united message should go from Parliament that all parties were together in the fight against black money.

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