Top Opposition leaders are expected to show up at Tuesday’s meeting convened by Congress to ramp up attack on demonetisation and alleged “personal corruption” of the Prime Minister.
On the eve of deliberations, Rahul Gandhi on Monday held a meeting of all Congress general secretaries and State Congress presidents at his residence to discuss the situation.
A senior party leader, who declined to be identified, likened Tuesday’s parleys with that of the Shimla conclave in 2003 which saw Congress pitching for unity of secular forces to oust the then NDA government led by Vajpayee.
The meeting is seen as an attempt on the part of the Congress to paper over the cracks that developed when several Opposition parties skipped the joint Opposition march to Rashtrapati Bhawan on December 16 over demonetisation.
They were apparently annoyed over Congress Vice President Rahul Gandhi meeting the PM earlier that day on the issue of farmers’ problems, especially in poll-bound Uttar Pradesh and Punjab. While the Left parties announced they are staying away, the JD(U) also gave hints that it may follow suit. Congress is part of the JD(U)-led Nitish Kumar government in Bihar.
“We have decided to stay away from the press conference of Opposition parties convened by the Congress because there has been no proper consultation and coordination among parties,” CPI(M) general secretary Sitaram Yechury said in Kolkata on Monday.
There was no immediate word from SP and BSP, while NCP’s Tariq Anwar, who was to attend, is unable to come to Delhi as he had to cancel his plans due to his mother’s death in Patna.
Congress leader Jairam Ramesh downplayed the plans of several parties skipping the Opposition meeting that will be followed by a joint press conference. He also cited local and regional compulsions for some parties not to be together on the same platform. “Whoever comes tomorrow will come. Those who don’t come tomorrow will come the next time. Those who will come, you will see tomorrow,” said Ramesh striking a philosophical note.
He, however, dismissed suggestions that Tuesday’s meeting was a “tea party” like the one in 1998 which ultimately led to the downfall of the Vajpayee government. West Bengal Chief Minister and TMC supremo Mamata Banerjee, who has been vocal against demonetisation, will attend Tuesday’s meeting, sources said.
She will attend the briefing at Constitution Club along with other Opposition leaders including representatives from DMK and RJD, sources added.
Several Opposition parties have reservation about the way the meeting has been convened.” CPI National Secretary D Raja said there should have been “more prior consultations on the date and agenda” of the meeting of Opposition parties.
JD(U) spokesperson K C Tyagi said, “The meeting has no agenda, not even a common minimum programme. It is unlikely to arrive at any conclusion.”
The Opposition meet is being held at a time when the Narendra Modi dispensation has completed half its term and the ruling BJP is going whole hog to capture key Uttar Pradesh, where Assembly polls will take place in few months.
Meanwhile, taking potshots at Congress after over decisions of several parties to keep away from the meeting, BJP said the balloon of their “so-called unity” has burst even before it could have floated.
“It was never a positive move but an outcome of negative politics against Prime Minister Narendra Modi. It only shows that even Opposition parties have rejected Rahul Gandhi whose credibility has already gone down among the masses,” its national secretary Shrikant Sharma said.