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  India   Politics  24 Nov 2016  Govt initiates back-channel talks as Oppn intensifies note ban stir

Govt initiates back-channel talks as Oppn intensifies note ban stir

Published : Nov 24, 2016, 2:56 am IST
Updated : Nov 24, 2016, 11:59 am IST

Inside the Parliament complex over 200 MPs from gathered in front of the Gandhi statue.

West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee with JD(U) leaderSharad Yadav and other opposition leaders during a opposition rally led by Mamata Banerjee against demonetization of Rs 500 and Rs 1000 notes at Jantar Mantar in New Delhi. (Photo: PTI)
 West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee with JD(U) leaderSharad Yadav and other opposition leaders during a opposition rally led by Mamata Banerjee against demonetization of Rs 500 and Rs 1000 notes at Jantar Mantar in New Delhi. (Photo: PTI)

New Delhi: Somewhat rattled by the aggressive stance adopted by the Opposition over the demonetisation move, the government has initiated a back-channel dialogue with select leaders, particularly those of Trinamul Congress and the Congress. Parliamentary affairs minister Ananth Kumar, who met the leaders of  both parties Wednesday evening, will continue his efforts on Thursday.

After Wednesday’s meeting, Mr Kumar said he told the Congress and TMC leaders that the government had been saying it was willing and ready to listen to their concerns. “I have again requested them to start discussions where they can express their viewpoints, which the government will listen to and consider,” Mr Kumar said. The Opposition parties have, meanwhile, decided to observe November 28 as “Aakrosh Divas”, when nationwide protests will be held. Information and broadcasting minister M. Venkaiah Naidu again reiterated on Wednesday that there will be “no rollback” of the demonetisation, and he added: “Modi never rolls back any of his decisions.”

Both the Congress and TMC leaders have been leading the charge and have managed to unite almost the entire Opposition against the Narendra Modi government over the demonetisation issue. It was the Trinamul supremo Mamata Banerjee’s aggressive tactics and her success in drawing the Opposition parties to her platform that had become a major cause of concern for the government. The TMC chief’s posturing and her efforts to form and lead a possible federal front in the near future has also rung alarm bells in the saffron camp.

Ms Banerjee, who had taken on the government over the controversial decision since the first day of the Winter Session of Parliament, held a protest rally at Jantar Mantar here on Wednesday along with leaders of  the Samajwadi Party, JD(U), NCP and AAP.

What raised eyebrows in particular was that leaders from Hardik Patel’s outfit Patidar Anamat Andolon Samity had also shared the dais with her.

Inside the Parliament complex over 200 MPs from gathered in front of the Gandhi statue, and stood shoulder to shoulder against the demonetisation move. Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi was also a part of this dharna inside the Parliament complex.

On Wednesday evening, rumours flew thick and fast that the PMO had invited Mr Sudip Bandopadhyay, TMC leader in the Lok Sabha, to arrange a meeting between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Ms Banerjee. When asked about this, Ms Banerjee said “this is a democracy, and dialogue is an essential part of democracy”. But later Mr Bandopadhyay denied that he had been invited by the PMO. Mr Bandopadhyay tweeted: “I was shocked to see reports in a section of the media that there were calls from the PMO for a meeting with my leader (Mamata). There is no truth in this.”

When contacted, senior TMC leader and Lok Sabha MP Sultan Ahmed made it clear there was no way his party would agree to give up the agitation. “The Opposition and the ruling party have reached a point of no return over this issue. We will not back down. We are going to fight for the common people and poor people who are facing major hardship over the demonetisation move,” Mr Ahmed told this newspaper.

Addressing the Jantar Mantar protest rally, Ms Banerjee hit out at the Prime Minister, and compared him to (Nazi dictator) Hitler. She thundered: “Loktantra mein aise nahin chalta hai” (This does not work in a democracy). Flanked by other Opposition leaders, Ms Banerjee lashed out: “First they took votes in the name of acche din, then they took notes.”

In her characteristic flamboyant manner, Ms Baneerjee then declared: “I will not end my protest even if they shoot me.” She claimed that there was a “hidden agenda” behind the December 30 deadline for the surrender of the demonetised currency notes.

Inside the Parliament complex, Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi, the star attraction at the Opposition’s show of strength at the Gandhi statue, called the scrapping of Rs 1,000 and Rs 500 notes as the world’s biggest “impromptu financial experiment”. He and the other parties at the protest reiterated their demand for a Joint Parliamentary Committee probe into the demonetisation. Mr Gandhi also alleged that the decision had been leaked to a number of businessmen and industrialist friends of the BJP before the announcement.

“What the PM has done is the biggest impromptu financial experiment in the world. He did not ask anyone. The finance minister did not know. The chief economic adviser did not know. This decision is not that of the finance minister. This is the Prime Minister’s decision,” he said, adding that the PM was scared of speaking in the House.

“The Prime Minister can give lectures at pop concerts where naach gaana is going on. (But) 200 MPs are saying they want to tell the nation why he took this decision. PM does not want to come to Parliament. Why is the PM afraid? He is obviously anxious about something,” Mr Gandhi said. The Opposition’s show of strength included the Samajwadi Party, Bahujan Samaj Party, TMC, DMK, CPI and CPI(M), besides the Congress.

Tags: demonetisation, venkaiah naidu, narendra modi, mamata banerjee, winter session
Location: India, Delhi, New Delhi