Prime Minister Narendra Modi fired a fresh salvo at the Opposition on Friday, saying some people are upset because they did not get time to “prepare” before the government scrapped high-value banknotes.
Modi’s comments gave opposition parties another handle to target the government and stall Parliament for the seventh straight day, as they sought an apology from him for questioning their integrity.
The Prime Minister’s choice of venue -- Parliament annexe – also rankled with the Opposition, which has been demanding his clarification in the House on the demonetisation of Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 notes, a surprise move that has left millions of people lining up at banks and ATM kiosks for over a fortnight.
Also on Friday, the Supreme Court decided to hear on December 2 a clutch of petitions to look at the “constitutional validity of the decision” and the “inconvenience caused to people”. The court will also take up the Centre’s plea seeking transfer of all cases filed in various high courts to the top court.
For his part, Modi maintained the decision to scrap the existing high denomination notes will work to the benefit of the people.
“The government’s decision is being criticised by a few for not being prepared. Actually, they are perturbed that they were caught unawares. If they had been given 72 hours, they would have said there is no one else like Modi,” Modi said at a function to commemorate the Constitution. Several BJP leaders and Opposition lawmakers were in the audience.
“Everyone has the right to his money. You have a right to every pie. But, why must it be currency notes?” he said in response to criticism that the government was denying people the right to their own money.
The PM’s attack came a day after his predecessor Manmohan Singh described the demonetisation as “organised loot” that could severely impact the country’s economic growth. He accused the government of “monumental mismanagement” in implementing the currency switch.
Modi, however, maintained that the common people have become “the soldiers of this battle against corruption and black money”.
Hours after Modi spoke, angry opposition MPs stalled proceedings in both Houses of Parliament for “wrongly accusing the opposition of holding black money”.
“Prime Minister says opposition is favouring black money. This is an insult of the House and of the Opposition. How can he level such an allegation? We are against black money.
The Prime Minister must apologise,” leader of Opposition in Rajya Sabha Ghulam Nabi Azad said as Congress and other opposition members raised slogans.
Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi too stepped up his attack on Modi.
“The main issue is the Prime Minister doesn’t come to the House for discussion. The moment he comes, doodh ka doodh, paani ka paani ho jayega (everything will be clear),” he told reporters in the Parliament House complex.
“Let’s see what emotions appear on his face when he comes to the Lok Sabha. The PM doesn’t want to sit in the House. We have been stopped from speaking. What you are you scared of?”
BSP leader Mayawati and Trinamool Congress’ Derek O’Brien also criticised Modi for painting the entire opposition as those having black money. “He (Modi) is a saint and we are all devils?” O’Brien said in the Rajya Sabha.
Refuting the Opposition’s demand for an apology by Modi, junior parliamentary affairs minister Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi said it was the Opposition which should tender an apology.