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Demonetisation politics heats up: Govt hits back as Oppn plans nationwide stir

black money crackdown Updated: Nov 22, 2016 10:34 IST
HT Correspondent

Union finance minister Arun Jaitley with MoS finance Arjun Ram Meghwal and chief economic adviser Arvind Subramanian at a pre-budget meeting, in New Delhi on Saturday. (PTI)

The Opposition’s protest against the government’s demonetisation drive is set to spill on to the streets after uproar over one of the country’s biggest financial decisions paralysed Parliament’s winter session for three consecutive days.

As many as 11 opposition parties met on Monday morning to chalk out a strategy for a nationwide protest to corner the Narendra Modi government.

Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi, who visited several ATMs across the Capital and its satellite cities, accused Prime Minister Modi of acting on his whims and fancies.

“We will have to find a new word to define him. He is at another level now. He took the biggest economic decision in the history of India by informing just three to four people. There was no plan and no thought was given to its negative repercussions,” he said.

Gandhi alleged that cash was being taken out surreptitiously from banks for a few select people, while the common people suffered in long queues for hours.

“People told me deals were being carried out behind the banks as cash was given to select few. This is only benefitting those close to the Prime Minister.”

The Congress leader sharpened his attack on Modi on a day it was decided that about 200 opposition parliamentarians will hold a protest near Mahatma Gandhi’s statue in the Parliament complex on Wednesday. They will organise rallies in New Delhi and go to the states to highlight the “economic anarchy” and harassment to the people.

“Farmers are being forced to walk 10km to the nearest bank to get some cash. The government has created an economic logjam through this step,” Congress leader Jyotiraditya Scindia said.

Read: Demonetisation affects Nepal, black marketing of currency rampant at border

The Opposition’s growing attack prompted BJP president Amit Shah and finance minister Arun Jaitley to discuss the situation.

Jaitley accused the Opposition of shying away from a debate.

“Merits and demerits will come out in a debate ... This is clear now that the Opposition is not ready for debate and is coming up with new excuses to disrupt the House,” he said in Parliament.

The Congress also accused the government of introducing Rs 2,000 notes illegally.

Senior party leader Anand Sharma said it is an “illegal act” as the notification required to be issued under the RBI act for printing new notes has not been issued.

The notes recall — aimed at curbing illicit funds and corruption, but saddled with an implementation nightmare — has given the Opposition the glue to keep its fragile unity together.

Read: Rs 2.5 lakh cash withdrawal allowed for weddings: All you need to know

In November 2015, Congress president Sonia Gandhi led an Opposition march to President Pranab Mukherjee over the NDA government’s land acquisition bill.

The opposition parties, barring the ruling Samajwadi Party of Uttar Pradesh that didn’t send any representative for Monday’s meeting, decided to continue their protest in Parliament and organise a march to Rashtrapati Bhavan too.

During the day, both Houses of Parliament got adjourned.

In the Lok Sabha, the Congress led a demand for a debate under the adjournment motion. The Speaker didn’t agree. In the Rajya Sabha, the opposition parties demanded a joint parliamentary committee to probe allegations linked to the demonetisation exercise.

“Will insist on Modi’s presence if the debate on demonetisation happens,” Congress leader Mallikarjun Kharge said.