Eight regional parties on Thursday did not invite the Congress to take part in a joint protest against the government over the Goods and Services Tax (GST) dues that the Centre owes to states.
Leaders belonging to the Trinamool Congress, Telangana Rashtra Samithi (TRS), Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD), Aam Aadmi Party (AAP), Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK), Samajwadi Party (SP), Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) and the Shiv Sena gathered near the statue of Mahatma Gandhi in the Parliament House complex to seek immediate release of compensation for a shortfall in their share of GST collections.
Out of these eight parties, NCP, Shiv Sena, DMK and RJD are the Congress’s allies in Maharashtra, Tamil Nadu and Bihar respectively. The Congress, along with the NCP and Shiv Sena, is part of the ruling Maha Vikas Aghadi alliance in Maharashtra.
The move is being seen as a setback to the Opposition’s bid to put up a united front against the Centre in Parliament during the ongoing monsoon session.
The leaders who participated in the protest were Derek O’Brien and Kalyan Banerjee of the Trinamool Congress, K Keshava Rao from the TRS, RJD’s Manoj Jha, AAP’s Sanjay Singh; Akhilesh Yadav and Ram Gopal Yadav of the SP, NCP’s Supriya Sule; TR Baalu and TKS Elangovan from the DMK, and Sanjay Raut of the Shiv Sena.
When asked why the Congress wasn’t invited, party spokesperson Pawan Khera said: “This is something that those parties should answer. As far as the Congress is concerned, we consistently raise from all platforms the issues that affect the everyday lives of every single Indian.”
Asked why they did not call the Congress for the protest, a leader of a regional party said the TRS and the AAP were not comfortable sharing space with the party.
Watch: Opposition parties protest in Parliament over GST dues
Addressing reporters after the protest, O’Brien said: “It is increasingly becoming clear to us that in Parliament, the regional parties are finding it easier to coordinate with each other to strategise. The Congress can no longer decide the subject and then the dosage of opposition strategy. They cannot do something in states and seek support in Parliament.”
Echoing his views, Banerjee said that the Congress teams up with the BJP in Bengal to attack the Mamata Banerjee government and then expects cooperation in Delhi. “All (the regional) parties are strong in their respective regions and are very comfortable working with each other.”
The immediate trigger for the stand of the TMC appears to be the appointment of a known baiter of CM Mamata Banerjee, Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury, as the West Bengal Congress president.
In his first press conference in Kolkata, Chowdhury attacked the “totalitarian regime” of the Trinamool Congress.
The move also was in contrary to an understanding reached between key leaders at a virtual meeting called by Congress president Sonia Gandhi on August 26 to discuss the issues of GST compensation and holding entrance exams in the midst of the Covid-19 pandemic.
Apart from four Congress chief ministers, Captain Amarinder Singh (Punjab), Ashok Gehlot (Rajasthan), Bhupesh Baghel (Chhattisgarh) and V Narayanasamy (Puducherry), the chief ministers of West Bengal (Mamata Banerjee), Maharashtra (Uddhav Thackeray) and Jharkhand (Hemant Soren) attended the meeting.
The Congress did not invite chief ministers of Odisha (Naveen Patnaik), Delhi (Arvind Kejriwal), Andhra Pradesh (YS Jaganmohan Reddy), Telangana (K Chandrasekhar Rao) and Kerala (Pinarayi Vijayan).
All the leaders agreed to work closely to take on the central government in and outside Parliament. AAP leader Sanjay Singh said the eight parties will have more joint meetings in the coming days. The protest came ahead of a scheduled discussion on GST in the Rajya Sabha.