Two days before the Winter Session begins, the Congress and Mamata Banerjee’s Trinamool Congress will meet today as the opposition unites to take on the government in Parliament over the demonetisation of 500 and 1,000 rupee notes.
The Trinamool Congress is leading a move to consolidate opposition parties to petition the President against the government’s decision and demand that it be revoked. West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee’s party has submitted a notice in the Rajya Sabha or Upper House that all other work be suspended to discuss demonetisation on Wednesday, when parliament convenes.
The opposition parties plan to attack the government over the hardships faced by common people because of a cash crunch since Prime Minister Narendra Modi suddenly pulled 500 and 1,000 rupee notes in an evening announcement on November 8.
There has been chaos and anger as currency notes have been rationed in new rules, leading to long lines at banks and ATMs and opposition parties have accused the government of being “anti-poor” and pro-black money hoarders.
The government is in a minority in the Rajya Sabha and Mamata Banerjee hopes to bring together parties with significant numbers in the house to her side. Apart from talks with the Congress, she has suspended her anti-pathy for the Left to reach out to it for opposition unity. It is yet to respond.
The ruling BJP’s parliamentary executive too will meet today to formulate a counter strategy, before meeting allies in the National Democratic Alliance. The party faces potential trouble from allies like the Shiv Sena, which has crticised the move and the Shiromani Akali Dal, with the demonetisation impacting election funding just ahead of assembly elections in Punjab.
The government is firm that its demonetisation decision is pro-poor and designed only to punish those who have black or untaxed money. In an emotional speech on Sunday in Goa, PM Modi choked as he vowed to continue his fight against the corrupt even at a risk to his life and asked people to give him 50 days to iron out the chinks in the implementation of the government’s demonetisation scheme.
PM Modi also met top ministers and officials beyond midnight in a review of the demonetisation scheme and its impact, to see how the problems being faced by people can be eased.
On Tuesday, the government has called for an all-party meeting to thrash out a broad agenda for the Winter Session. It will have to give in to the opposition’s demand for an immediate debate to ensure minimum disruption of the session and the support it needs to push two bills related to its mega reform the Goods and Services Tax, a unified tax it hopes to implement by April 1 next year.
“It’s a tight-rope walk. Finance Minister Arun Jaitley has meetings with state finance ministers from November to tie up a deal on GST. A breakdown over demonetisation will hurt that process,” a senior BJP minister said.