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27 Dec 2016

Delicate day for Opposition

TT, Dec. 26: Mamata Banerjee reached New Delhi in an attempt to reaffirm her pivotal role in the anti-demonetisation campaign on a day the Congress was struggling to manage the daunting task of bringing competing Opposition forces on one platform.
Amid signs that the Congress and Trinamul are largely on the same page, several other Opposition parties such as the Samajwadi Party, BSP, CPI, CPM, JDU and the NCP have developed cold feet on a joint media conference tomorrow.
Sources in Trinamul said Mamata was not averse to the idea of attending a meeting of Opposition parties should one be convened by the Congress during her stay, but she was yet to decide on being seen at the joint media conference if it takes place.
"If it is only a news conference, she might send representatives and not go personally. If there is a meeting before the news conference, she is likely to attend that," said a Trinamul Lok Sabha MP. Till this evening, the Congress officially did not speak of any meeting.
The primary reason for the misgivings among the rest of the Opposition seems to be that none of them was consulted. But they maintained that even if they skip the event, it should not be construed as a boycott or a break in the floor coordination seen inside Parliament.
Congress leaders privately said the Left was not comfortable in the company of Trinamul, and the CPM's hostility towards the Congress in Kerala too played a role.
The Samajwadis and the BSP will not be comfortable on the same political platform so close to the crucial Uttar Pradesh Assembly elections. The JDU has already taken a contrarian view on demonetisation.
Asked about the stand taken by the CPM, Congress spokesperson Jairam Ramesh said: "(CPM general secretary) Sitaram Yechury should remember what their ideologue Mao said - that you have to walk on two legs. There are local compulsions but Yechury is a mature national leader and he has to decide whether the CPM has to fight Modi or not."
Ramesh played down the absence of some parties, saying that "those who won't come tomorrow will come later". Congress leaders said tonight they were still working to ensure a good presence at the media conference.
Yechury told The Telegraph: "There is no disunity in the Opposition on the issue of demonetisation but the question is 'how do you marshal this?' Every day in Parliament, we used to meet and decide on the day's strategy. In this case, Ahmed Patel called me a couple of days back and informed me about the press conference. I had three questions: 'who all will be there, what is the agenda and are you going to announce any joint protest action which we are keen on?"
Earlier, in Calcutta, Yechury wondered why other chief ministers like Nitish Kumar, Akhilesh Yadav, Manik Sarkar and Pinarayi Vijayan had not been invited by the Congress.
Asked whether the possible presence of Mamata was the problem, Yechury said it was not true. "For the larger interest of the people in the case of demonetisation, the CPM can come together with Trinamul, alongside others, to take on the BJP-led Centre," he said.

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