Rahul Gandhi leads a fractured opposition at joint presser today

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New Delhi, Dec 27, 2016: Congress vice president Rahul Gandhi and West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee share the stage today as they take their parties’ joint attack on the Modi government over the notes ban outside parliament. The Congress had invited all opposition parties for the joint press conference today, but several major parties have turned it down.

Among those who are not attending are the Left parties, Nitish Kumar’s Janata Dal-United and Sharad Pawar’s Nationalist Congress Party or NCP. Uttar Pradesh heavyweights Samajwadi Party and the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) have also declined the Congress’ invitation.

“Why should we send someone? We have been saying whatever we need to say though individual press conferences. They can do what they want,” said BSP chief Mayawati, who held a press conference of her own in Lucknow today.

The Left and JD(U) have said they were not consulted by the Congress and that the opposition unity in parliament in the winter session cannot automatically be extended to other platforms. “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,” said CPI (M) general secretary Sitaram Yechury on Monday.

KC Tyagi of the Janata Dal-United said an agenda or “common minimum programme” should have been shared, pointing out that even on the notes ban parties have different stands. Mamata Banerjee’s Trinamool Congress wants a withdrawal of the notes ban which is aimed at eliminating black money, while some other opposition parties support the intent of demonetisation, but oppose the government on its implementation because of the hardships caused to people by a severe cash crunch, he said.

While Mamata Banerjee’s prominent presence at today’s event makes it difficult for archrival the Left to attend, the JD(U) is also seen as reluctant to share space with the West Bengal Chief Minister after she attacked her Bihar counterpart Nitish Kumar in Patna for his support to demonetisation.

The JD(U) and Congress are allies in Bihar and third partner Lalu Yadav’s RJD is attending the opposition presser today.

The NCP had initially confirmed its attendance, but later backed out, sources said, linking it to the Congress announcing an alliance in Goa, where elections will be held next year.

Apart from a continued attack on the notes ban, Rahul Gandhi is today expected to bring up again corruption charges that he has made against PM Narendra Modi, described by the ruling  as “the joke of the year.” Mamata Banerjee’s party has supported Rahul Gandhi on this.

With today’s outreach, the Congress is seen as making an effort at limiting damage after Rahul Gandhi’s meeting with PM Modi on the last day of the winter session upset other opposition parties. Senior leaders Ghulam Nabi Azad and Ahmed Patel telephoned all opposition parties to invite them.

Ahmed Patel, a close aide of Congress president Sonia Gandhi, has been appointed by the party to head a committee to plan the Congress’ attack on the government over the notes ban and the charges it has made against the Prime Minister.

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