By Syed Ubaidur Rahman
The demonetization of high value currency notes in the country has impacted almost the entire population one way or the other. The queues in front of banks and ATMs remain as long as they were on day one following the announcement by Prime Minister Narendra Modi on November 8.
Opposition parties have largely united to take on the government on the issue of demonetization. Most of them have said while they support the ban on high denomination notes, they are against the haphazard way in which it has been carried out. For the last fortnight Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha have not been allowed to function thanks to persistent attacks by the opposition parties.
The man leading the protests inside and outside the Parliament is the Nehru-Gandhi scion Rahul Gandhi, the Congress party vice president. He has managed to bring all the other smaller parties on one platform at least on the demonetization issue and the entire opposition has stalled the proceedings of the parliament to a complete halt.
The atmosphere inside the Parliament has become so frustrating that LK Advani, the man who scripted the first success of the BJP in electoral politics openly castigated Lok Sabha Speaker and government. Advani expressed his annoyance with Lok Sabha Speaker Sumitra Mahajan and Parliamentary Affairs Minister Ananth Kumar for not “running the House”. “Who’s running the House? It is running on its own. Neither the Speaker nor the Parliamentary Affairs Minister is running the House”, the BJP patriarch was heard complaining in the Lok Sabha.
Nonetheless, despite the ‘unanimous’ stand on the issue of demonetization, Congress party’s ally in the Bihar government Janta Dal (United) is almost absent from the protests over the demonetization issue. While JDU stalwart Sharad Yadav has been attending opposition brainstorming sessions on how to effectively take on the Modi government on the issue, party chief and Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar has wholeheartedly supported the move.
Lalu Prasad Yadav, the staunchest ally of the Congress party in the past, has also been rather muted in his criticism of the ‘notebandi’ issue till now. This is not perplexing to see the two ‘champions’ of secularism shying away from the whole notebandi opposition.
Marginalization of Congress Party
The Congress party seems to have been completely marginalized following the debacle of the Lok Sabha elections in the year 2014. From being in power for around a decade, Congress was decimated, much to the astonishment of the whole country.
The BJP gained majority of its own in the Lok Sabha elections and along with its allies, it notched up two-third majority in the house, where the Congress party and its UPA allies enjoyed comfortable majority before the elections. From 204 seats in Lok Sabha, the Congress numbers nosedived to merely 44, a drop of 160 seats. There are many people who said this was due to Modi magic. Nonetheless, the Modi magic might not have worked so effectively had the Congress party put up even a semblance of a fight in 2014th Lok Sabha elections.
Destroying local leadership
Congress party has tried to super-impose everything on its cadre from ‘high command’, making the party’s state units completely irrelevant. The way Congress top brass treated Jaganmohan Reddy was the most unfortunate and it had a major impact on the Congress numbers in the current Lok Sabha.
Despite the overwhelming support that the YSR son enjoyed across the state and from the party leaders too following YSR death in chopper crash, the Congress high command failed to read the pulse and made a blunder of sorts. This is the reason that the party was completely wiped out from the two states of Telangana and Andhra Pradesh. While it could hardly win two seats in the newly carved out state of Telangana, the party could not win a single seat in Andhra Pradesh. From its impressive tally of 37 Lok Sabha seats from the twin states in 2009 elections, the party was reduced to just 2 seats.
Reports suggest that the Congress party is now trying to patch up with Jaganmohan Reddy, but it is too late and the YSR scion may not be interested in patching up with the Congress high command that tried to destroy him from political scene by witch-hunting.
Congress party has ditched many of its allies in the past. But what it did to Lalu Yadav, the party’s most trusted ally for more than a decade in September 2013, will be a classic example of disregarding loyalty and trust. On 27 September 2013, just over three years ago, the vice president of the grand old party of the Indian politics and heir apparent of Sonia Gandhi said that the ordinance on convicted politicians in complete nonsense. He went on to add that “what our government has done is wrong”. He further said the ordinance should be “torn up and thrown away”.
If that was not enough, the Gandhi scion added, “It is time to stop this nonsense, political parties, mine and all others…If you want to fight corruption in the country whether it is Congress party or BJP, we cannot continue making these small compromises. Because if we make compromises, then we compromise everywhere”.
While his intention may be good, this one step not just sent Lalu Yadav behind high prison walls, but also ensured that UPA ministers and government machinery–disillusioned with this childlike attitude –promised to teach the Gandhi scion a lesson.
This also ensured that Lalu Yadav and other politicians like him who had supported the Congress for many years, became not just disillusioned with it, but also outright hostile. In a country where patronage politics is steeped into its very foundations, this was a rather political hara-kiri by Rahul Gandhi. The present marginalization of the Congress party and the lack of effective opposition may be the reason that Modi government could plan scrapping of high value notes that may have far reaching impact on the Indian economy.