The government should roll back a decision to withdraw high-value banknotes as it will not stamp out illegal cash, Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal said on Saturday, joining a growing list of opposition politicians criticising the abrupt move.
Speaking to reporters in Delhi, Kejriwal alleged the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) had warned all “friends” who stashed away their “black money” well before Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced on Tuesday that Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 notes will be put out of circulation.
“In the name of fighting black money, a big scam is being implemented,” the Aam Aadmi Party chief said. “The decision should be rolled back. People will lose jobs and this will hurt the economy.”
Kejriwal’s strong words come a day after BJP president Amit Shah hit out at detractors and mentioned the AAP chief by name – among other leaders – asking them whether they were in favour of black money.
“Amit Shah is lecturing on honesty. There cannot be a bigger irony,” Kejriwal said.
The AAP, Congress, Samajwadi Party, Bahujan Samaj Party and the Trinamool Congress have all opposed the move.
Kejriwal referred to purported photos on social media – which show BJP members with Rs 2,000 notes days before Modi’s announcement – to say that the saffron party had alerted black money hoarders while harassing ordinary people. He said hoarders won’t deposit black money, given the steep tax and penalties that can shave 90% off someone’s wealth.
“Who are standing in the long lines? Rickshaw pullers, traders, shopkeepers, housewives – who paid their taxes.”
The Delhi CM alleged that black money was being re-distributed because hoarders were buying dollars, gold and property with the help of middlemen who facilitated illegal exchange of old banknotes.
“A crisis was intentionally created to help touts.”
Over the past two days, millions of panicked consumers have rushed to banks and ATMs but have mostly returned empty-handed. Snaking queues have given way to frustration as ATMs have frequently run out cash, especially in smaller towns and villages.
“This isn’t a surgical strike on black money, it is a surgical strike on the common man’s savings. We question their intent and implementation,” Kejriwal said.
The AAP chief pointed to higher bank deposits in the past quarter to prove that the BJP alerted its “friends” and said the government knew that ATMs couldn’t be configured overnight to dispense notes of new size and design – but went ahead with the move to harass common people.