The opposition parties attacked Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Wednesday for unleashing an “economic anarchy” by recalling high-value banknotes but the government defended the clampdown as a move to cleanse the country of illicit currency.
They also demanded a probe into the demonetisation move saying the government had leaked the information to “BJP’s friends” in advance.
The scrapping of the old Rs 500 and 1,000 banknotes on November 8 has forced people to spend hours in queues outside banks and ATMs to exchange old notes and withdraw new ones, triggering a political blame game. The ruling dispensation justifies the move as surgical strike against black money, terror-funding, and counterfeit currency.
The Prime Minister walked over to Congress president Sonia Gandhi, Trinamool Congress MPs and other opposition leaders in the Lok Sabha on Wednesday morning. Soon after, the opposition parties launched a diatribe against the government during a debate on the issue in the Rajya Sabha.
The Lok Sabha was adjourned after obituary references and is likely to debate the demonetisation on Thursday when Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi is also expected to speak on the issue.
Information and broadcasting minister Venkaiah Naidu likened demonetisation to the government’s ‘Swachch Bharat’ programme . “Swachh tan se, man se, dhan se (purity of body, mind and wealth)…that is what the governmemt is aiming for,” Naidu said in the Rajya Sabha.
Initiating the debate, senior Congress leader Anand Sharma attacked the Prime Minister, asking from where he got Rs 23,000-24,000 crore -- estimated by the International Money Watch Group -- for his Lok Sabha election campaign in 2014.
He said information was selectively leaked to benefit the BJP’s friends. “Your BJP units have deposited crores (before the announcement).” Sharma said a Gujarati newspaper published a report in April about the move to withdraw the banknotes.
“This is a very serious issue. Truth be told, you never kept secrecy,” Sharma said. His demand for a probe was supported by JD(U) leader Sharad Yadav and CPI(M) leader Sitaram Yechury.
The Congress also sought to know to whom Modi was referring to when he said in Goa recently that with demonetisation resulting in “looting of their 70 year corrupt earnings, they will destroy me, they can kill me”.
Power minister Piyush Goyal, however, said demonetisation was in national interest and people across the country are supporting the initiative. He rejected the allegations of leakage as baseless, saying that everyone was taken by surprise by the decision and that’s why there are “initial” problems.
West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee, who seemed isolated in her demand to roll back the demonetisation move, got support from unexpected quarters as NDA constituent Shiv Sena, the Aam Aadmi Party, and the National Conference leaders joined her march from Parliament to the Rashtrapati Bhawan to seek President Pranab Mukherjee’s intervention.
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