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.
Kumar also emphasised on liquor ban for more effective fight against black money. "If demonetisation, benami properties and prohibition are taken effectively in the country, India would definitely go past China in terms of development," said Kumar, who is also JD(U) national president. He also addressed a meeting of JD(U) state parliamentary party late in the evening during which, party insiders said, he narrated the merits of the demonetisation decision. Kumar also rubbished reports of having a talk with Prime Minister Narendra Modi in the national capital yesterday. JD(U) has made it clear it will not take part in the dharna by TMC chief and West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee in Patna on Wednesday seeking roll-back of demonetisation, though it is still not clear if Lalu Prasad's party and Congress would be present at the Gardanibagh dharna site to support the demand. Outside the Bihar Legislative Assembly and Legislative Council today, bandh supporters from RJD, Congress and CPI-ML, holding placards in their hands, shouted slogans at the entrance gate as BJP MLAs, led by Leader of Opposition Prem Kumar, countered them by raising slogans in favour of demonetisation. As the Assembly proceedings began, Leader of Opposition Prem Kumar said RJD and Congress which have records of corruption during their rule in Bihar as well as at the national level do not have the moral standing to protest against demonetisation. He also thanked the chief minister for supporting the fight against black money. RJD and Congress members shouted back at the BJP members and two CPI-ML MLAs Mehboob Alam and Sudama Kumar rushed to the Well of the House in protest. The House resumed functioning only after intervention of Speaker Vijay Kumar Chaudhary. In the Legislative Council, former chief minister Rabri Devi and Congress MLCs raised slogans against demonetisation at the main gate, which BJP members countered by raising slogans in favour of the move.