Opposition in Rajya Sabha on Thursday tore into the government for presenting a “disappointing” budget, with Congress leader P Chidambaram terming note ban as the “most terrible” decision and alleging that graft and black money have continued to thrive and large sections adversely affected.
The former finance minister also criticised Prime Minister Narendra Modi over the words he chose to attack his predecessor Manmohan Singh, saying he should remember that the Chair he sat on was used by Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru and even Atal Bihari Vajpayee and hence he should use right language.
Initiating the discussion on the 2017-18 General Budget, he accused the government of “fumbling, bumbling, scrambling” and inventing a new narrative every day.
Observing that he saw his first Rs 2,000 note four days after it came into circulation, he said there were many who were caught with crores worth new notes stashed away.
“This is the biggest scam of 2016 ... Where did they get these notes from? Did these go directly from the RBI press to them,” Chidambaram asked.
“This means that corruption and black money have thrived after demonetisation... The NSSO says 15 crore people in this country are daily wage earners. 25.5 crore workers are daily income earners. 40 crore people were completely devastated by demonetisation for eight weeks. These 40 crore people may forgive you, but they won’t forget the experience,” he said.
Questioning the remonetisation process, he asked “why should you demonetise and then remonetise” and said that the government has replenished Rs 9 lakh crore worth of new currency notes as against Rs 17 lakh crore old notes that went out of circulation.
Chidambaram said the government had inherited an economy that, in the last two years of the UPA rule, had grown by 6.1 and 6.9 per cent respectively.
“The average for the 10-year period is 7.5 per cent. India is among the fastest growing large economies in the world. But through 2016-17, you made a series of mistakes, capped by the most terrible mistake”, he said pointing at demonetisation.
He also asked why was the government shying away from giving a GDP number even while giving an estimate.
Terming the budget as a “great disappointment”, he estimated that 2016-17 will see a hit on GDP by 1-1.5 per cent and “if very unlucky”, then even 2 per cent and warned that this trend will spill over into 2017-18 also.