Congress plans to unite the Opposition for an onslaught on the government looks to be a non-starter with most parties deciding to stay away from a joint press conference it has scheduled for Tuesday.
Still miffed over Rahul Gandhi’s meeting with Prime Minister Narendra Modi on the last day of the winter session of Parliament, most Opposition leaders said the Congress did not consult or inform them about the agenda of the press conference. Barring the Trinamool Congress and DMK, most in the Opposition camp said they had decided to stay away from the Tuesday event.
CPM general secretary Sitaram Yechury announced his party would not attend the press conference. The NCP, once a constituent of the UPA, said it too would not participate. Sources in JD(U) and AAP also indicated they would give the event a miss. The BSP and CPI said they are yet to take a call.
TMC chief and West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee has reached New Delhi and is likely to attend the press conference. Party sources also indicated she may have a separate meeting later with the Congress leadership. Senior DMK leader Tiruchi Siva said he would attend the press conference.
NCP spokesperson D P Tripathi told The Indian Express: “We are not going.”
In Kolkata, Yechury said: “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 the parties.”
CPI general secretary S Sudhakar Reddy said his party is yet to take a decision. “We want to know what exactly is the programme they would like to announce… If it is acceptable… we will accept,” Reddy said.
The JD(U) is unlikely to attend the meeting. When contacted, party secretary-general K C Tyagi said: “Our party president Nitish Kumar is busy with his Nishchay Yatra and our parliamentary party leader Sharad Yadav is in Madhya Pradesh. We will take a call tomorrow”.
But Tyagi said: “This meeting has neither any clearly-stated agenda, nor a common minimum programme. Such meetings are called after prior consultation among leaders of parties, but in this case, there has been no such discussion”. All of a sudden, they (Congress leaders) have decided to hold a meeting and expect us to come. Nobody can bulldoze anyone to join.”
Tyagi said as far as the demonetisation issue was concerned, there was no unanimity among Opposition parties. While Mamata Banerjee was seeking a rollback of the decision, other parties were not in favour of this demand. He also took exception to Banerjee’s recent remarks about Nitish Kumar. “We neither use expressions like ‘a traitor’ about any chief minister, nor are we used to listening to such words about ourselves”, he said.
At the AICC briefing, senior Congress leader Jairam Ramesh said: “Those who will come will come… those who will not come will come in the future.”
“The biggest issue today is demonetisation… second issue is the corruption of the Prime Minister which Rahul Gandhi has raised… these are big times… and also how we coordinate our strategy in Parliament in the months to come,” Ramesh said.
Asked about Yechury’s remarks, Ramesh said: “Yechury also has local level issues to contend with. But I am sure that ultimately Yechury being the mature, national leader that he is, will recognise that to quote Mao ‘you have to walk on two legs’. One leg you fight local parties and on the other leg, you fight national parties. I am sure Yechury being a student of Mao knows he has to walk on two legs.”