In a bid to defuse the Opposition protests over the demonetisation and counter reports of distress, the Centre is reaching out to Chief Ministers to include them in a sub-committee to assess the public impact of the demonetisation process come up with a roadmap towards a cashless economy, sources said.
Union finance minister Arun Jaitley has requested Andhra Pradesh chief minister N Chandrababu Naidu to head the Chief Ministers’ panel. Jaitley has also spoken to Bihar chief minister Nitish Kumar and Odisha CM Naveen Patnaik, two Chief Ministers who have publicly backed Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s announcement, sources said.
BJP sources said Madhya Pradesh chief minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan also could be part of the team.
Chandrababu Naidu’s office has confirmed that Jaitley has requested the Chief Minister to head the panel.
The Centre is also trying to rope in Puducherry chief minister V Narayanasamy, a Congress veteran, as part of the sub committee. When contacted by The Indian Express, Narayanasamy said: “I have told them I would consult my party leadership.” He declined to say who called him from the government.
Sources said the final shape — and terms — of the committee will be clear only after the Chief Ministers confirmed their participation.
Naidu’s TDP is an ally, Patnaik’s BJD backs the government on an issue-to-issue basis and Nitish Kumar’s JD-U was the only Opposition party that supported the BJP-led government on demonetisation from Day One. Kumar said he was convinced that the move would help fight the menace of black money while party spokesperson Pawan Varma said that the party would not join the protests by the Opposition.
Left parties called for a Bharat Bandh while Congress and TMC held protest rallies across the country on Monday against the way the scheme has been rolled out. The TMC demanded withdrawal of the demonetisation decision.
The constitution of the panel, party sources said, is meant to counter the shrillness of the Opposition protest and their charges that the government did not take the Opposition into confidence while rolling out such a sweeping change. A united opposition blocked Parliament proceedings in both Houses amid reports that demonetisation had hit the aam aadmi, especially the informal sector.
In the Rajya Sabha, the Opposition has demanded the presence of PM Modi in the discussion on currency withdrawal while in the Lok Sabha, Opposition wants a debate under an adjournment motion.
The coming together of parties like the Congress, Trinamool Congress, DMK and Left in protests and the AIADMK’s backing to the protests in the House have troubled the BJP leadership. Its ally Shiv Sena has been blowing going hot and cold on its support to the government on the issue. On Monday, Shiv Sena leader Sanjay Raut complained about the long queues before the ATMs. Sensing growing nervousness among its cadre over reports of hardship from across the country, the BJP leadership has also held a series of meetings and consultations to drive home the “historic” step taken by the Prime Minister.
Addressing party leaders from the states, BJP president Amit Shah also reinforced the need for a cashless economy. Shah, according to sources, told them that the prime minister has brought in the demonetisation scheme to increase the size of the Budget to enable adequate expenditure on the poor, sources said. He admitted that the demonetisation process had brought hardship to people but said that the country “would overcome it,” sources added.