Demonetisation protest evokes mixed reaction in Bihar

Patna: With the ruling JD(U) keeping away from the strike protesting demonetisation in accordance with Chief Minister Nitish Kumar’s support to the move, the RJD, Congress and Left-sponsored agitation in Bihar today evoked a mixed reaction.

During the day, RJD, Congress and Left parties hit the streets, with workers disrupting train services at many places even as offices and schools registering normal attendance.

Train were the prime target of strikers during the protest and services were hit at Darbangha, Madhubani, Masauri in rural Patna, Ara, Jehanabad and other places.

In Darbhanga, Ara, Masaurhi and Madhubani, CPI workers squatted on the railway tracks.

Chief Public Relations Officer (CPRO) of East Central Railway Arvind Kumar Rajak said the normal schedule of more than a dozen trains was disrupted in different parts of Bihar due to the stir.

The protest also had its echo in both Houses of the Bihar legislature where legislators of Congress, RJD and CPI-ML raised slogans against scrapping of Rs 1,000 and Rs 500 notes.

BJP legislators countered them by raising slogans against them and in favour of demonetisation.

Despite traffic disruptions at a few intersections, road traffic was by and large normal, and attendance in offices, banks and schools and colleges remained unaffected overall.

Kumar also talked to Union Finance Minister Arun Jaitley over telephone today, though details of the conversation were yet to be known.

Sources in the Chief Minister’s office confirmed the telephonic talk between the two leaders which is believed to be in the context of the Centre’s proposed move to form a group of chief ministers on demonetisation.

However, the absence of JD(U) from the protest, in which partner parties Congress and RJD participated, raised questions whether everything was fine in the grand alliance, with some unconfirmed media reports painting JD(U)’s decision as efforts of a reunion with BJP.

Reports said that RJD chief Lalu Prasad talked to Congress President Sonia Gandhi over telephone in the presence of PCC president and minister Ashok Choudhary yesterday.

Kumar has strongly contested reports of his meeting BJP chief Amit Shah as background for supporting demonetisation.

He on Friday made it clear that the grand alliance of JD(U), RJD and Congress is for the state and on issues concerning it. He also said that on issues outside the state, “every party is privy to its own viewpoint… there is no confusion or fissures in coalition”.

Kumar, who has described the demonetisation decision as “sahsik” (courageous) step to fight black money, while talking to a section of media in his Legislative Council chamber once again vouched for scrapping of high denomination notes.

He also underlined that the Centre should also hit benami properties without delay. “Any delay in hitting benami properties will not have the desired results against black money… the delay would also reflect that intention is not right,” Kumar said. .