New Delhi: Union ministers have informally reached out to opposition leaders in an effort to break the week-long deadlock in Parliament over the government’s demonetisation move, even as opposition parties have stepped up their attack and announced a nation-wide protest next week.
The government is expected to hold a meeting on Thursday with leaders of key political parties. The overture comes in the midst of a logjam in both Houses of Parliament, which have seen virtually no legislative business. Meanwhile, the opposition parties are all set to observe Aakrosh Diwas (Protest Day) on Monday, 28 November.
Although Prime Minister Narendra Modi attended Lok Sabha on Wednesday, opposition parties continued to disrupt proceedings, demanding that the discussion on demonetisation should be concluded with voting on the issue in both Houses of Parliament. Both Rajya Sabha and Lok Sabha were adjourned early after repeated disruptions.
The completion of one week of the winter session was marked by protests organized by opposition parties both inside and outside Parliament. The first protest was held inside the Parliament complex by 200 MPs from 12 political parties including the Congress, Trinamool Congress (TMC), Left Parties, Janata Dal (United), Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD), Samajwadi Party (SP) and Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP).
The opposition has remained firm on its demand that Modi make a statement in both Houses of Parliament and also that there should be voting over the demonetisation issue. The collision between the government and the opposition has intensified since senior ministers of the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) argued that there could be no voting on a policy decision already taken by the government.
Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi on Wednesday said demonetisation was the “world’s biggest impromptu financial experiment” and reiterated Congress’ demand for a JPC (joint parliamentary committee) probe into the issue.
“Our demand is that PM represents the country and he should come to Parliament and sit through the entire debate and hear out us and the other opposition leaders. We feel there is a scam behind this decision. We feel he informed his own people before and the opposition is firm that it wants a JPC,” Gandhi told reporters.
Union parliamentary affairs minister Ananth Kumar defended the government in the Lok Sabha saying that Bharatiya Janata Party’s (BJP) performance in the just concluded bypolls was a vote in favour of Modi’s initiatives.
West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee led another protest against demonetisation at Jantar Mantar in New Delhi on Wednesday. The TMC chief was flanked by leaders of JDU, SP, Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) and Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) at the demonstration. “I can challenge that no one will vote for BJP. If I were you (PM), I would have apologised to the public. Why you are so egoistic? You have branded everyone in the country a black marketeer and have yourself turned into a saint,” Banerjee said.
“The Prime Minister should be called to the House... he must apologise why he is speaking outside,” BSP chief Mayawati said in Rajya Sabha.
Sitaram Yechury, general secretary of the Communist Party of India (Marxist) said in Rajya Sabha that the Prime Minister was violating the Constitution by not answering questions in Parliament.
PTI contributed to this story.