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Disunity in opposition (The Hindu.)

Ever since the Bharatiya Janata Party was voted to power with a majority of its own in the 2014 Lok Sabha election, Opposition parties have been trying to find an issue that would resonate with the people, identify a rallying point that would put the Narendra Modi government at the Centre on the defensive. But when such an issue did crop up after Mr. Modi announced the demonetisation of high-value notes on November 8, opponents of the BJP found themselves unprepared and unable to tap into the public resentment at the seemingly unnecessary pain caused by the shortage of cash. The demonetisation exercise did far more than divide the Opposition parties: it left them confused on the approach to be taken against the government. They were unable to fault the stated aims of the move: to curb black money, flush out counterfeit notes from the economy, and thereby curb terror funding. And when Mr. Modi sought 50 days to ease the cash flow, his opponents had no choice but to wait it out. Other than making noises about long queues at banks and ATMs and the flip-flops in announcing new rules for withdrawals and deposits and amending them in quick time, they had little to do. They could not attack the move in principle without being seen as supporting the corrupt and the devious. And they could not attack the manner of implementation without giving Mr. Modi the time he wanted to deal with what could not but have been a crisis in cash supply.

It was probably inevitable that the Opposition parties would speak in different voices on an issue like this, but it was inexplicable that the main Opposition party, the Congress, did little to forge a united front in Parliament and outside. When Opposition parties were planning to petition President Pranab Mukherjee on the demonetisation issue, Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi met Mr. Modi with a delegation of party leaders to request a waiver of farm loans. Leaders of the Samajwadi Party, the Bahujan Samaj Party and the Left parties were unhappy with the Congress approach. Not surprisingly, at a joint press conference of Opposition parties called by Mr. Gandhi, only Trinamool Congress leader and West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee was at hand to attack Mr. Modi. The other participants were mostly long-time allies of the Congress. The Janata Dal (United), whose leader Nitish Kumar had nice things to say about demonetisation initially, did not participate in a maha dharna organised by the RJD against demonetisation. The JD(U) stand was that it would rather wait for the 50 days before judging the move to be a failure or a mistake. Far from bringing together Opposition parties, the demonetisation move appears to have driven apart parties already in alliance.

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