As it brazens out political opposition to demonetisation in Parliament, the Centre is reaching out to states by forming a committee of chief ministers with a mandate to suggest ways to make India a cashless economy. Finance Minister Arun Jaitley has spoken to Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister N Chandrababu Naidu to head the chief ministers' panel, for which Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar and Odisha Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik are also being co-opted. Sources said Jaitley had spoken to all the three chief ministers. Incidentally, the three were among the first to back Prime Minister Narendra Modi's announcement of junking old Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 notes. The panel is to review the ground-level situation following the decision to demonetise high-value currency and suggest possible ways to ease hardships and inconvenience. Besides assessing the public impact, it is also to come up with a road map towards a cashless economy. Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan would also be part of the committee.
However, there is no decision on who will be picked from Congress and Left-ruled states.
The sources said names of chief ministers of Puducherry and Himachal Pradesh, V Narayanasamy and Harish Rawat, respectively, have been mooted from among the Congress fold.
The final call on the issue will have to be taken by the party, they said, adding that Tripura Chief Minister Manik Sarkar is also believed to be in the reckoning from among Left states.
In Parliament, the Congress has joined ranks with other opposition parties - the TMC of West Bengal, the SP and the BSP of Uttar Pradesh as well as the Left to oppose the demonetisation drive. Their combined show of strength has led to stalling of proceedings for the eighth day today. According to the sources, the chief minister's committee is being discussed at the Prime Minister's Office (PMO) level and an announcement is likely once all the names have been agreed upon. It is not immediately clear if the Congress and the CPM will join the committee, given their bitter opposition to Prime Minister Narendra Modi's November 8 announcement to withdraw old 500 and 1,000 rupee notes. However, there seems to be no problem with Naidu whose party TDP is an NDA ally. Also, Patnaik's BJD is backing the government. While Sharad Yadav of the JD(U) has opposed the demonetisation in the Rajya Sabha, Nitish Kumar has supported the move as he is convinced that the move would help fight the menace of black money. The constitution of the panel is meant to counter the Opposition charge that the government did not take them into confidence while announcing the sweeping measure.