Prime Minister Narendra Modi stood his ground on Sunday despite the Opposition’s growing clamour against his government’s move to recall 500- and 1,000-rupee notes, saying his decision will favour the country’s poor and middle class.
The Modi government abolished the two high-value notes in an effort to stop corruption, circulation of illicit funds or black money and counterfeits, and to choke terrorist funding.
“Uttar Pradesh ne bikau maal nahi bheja hai (UP has not sent a man who can be bought),” said Modi, who represents Varanasi in the Lok Sabha.
“The corrupt people wanted such a government who will dance to their tunes, sleep on their bribes. Lekin aapne koi bikau maal nahi bheja (to Delhi),” he said at a BJP election rally in Agra.
He praised the poor and middle class for supporting him and launched a veiled attack on West Bengal chief Mamata Banerjee and Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) chief Mayawati — staunch opponents of the notes recall.
“Some people have lost everything… Do you want to become an MLA? Bring this amount of cash. Then the cash was hoarded. But these notes belonged to the poor and middle class,” Modi said, referring to Mayawati’s alleged fund-raising style.
Some of Mayawati’s former party leaders such as Swami Prasad Maurya have accused her of “auctioning” tickets for the 2017 polls in Uttar Pradesh.
The BSP chief dismissed the charges. “It is the BSP’s firm belief that the BJP and the PM’s good days are over and bad days will come soon,” she said.
West Bengal’s Banerjee, who led a march to President Pranab Mukherjee against the demonetisation exercise, came in for some sharpshooting from Modi.
“I know who all are protesting against me. The whole country knows who were involved in chit fund. Many people invested but because of the blessings of politicians their money vanished. And they are asking questions to me,” he said.
He referred to the Rs 2,500-crore Sharada chit fund scam in which several leaders of the state’s ruling Trinamool Congress got embroiled.
In her riposte, the feisty West Bengal chief minister tweeted: “Pradhan Mantriji, you are equating corruption with anyone who opposes your policy. Are you the only magician?”
The Prime Minister spoke extensively about the demonetisation drive at the Agra rally, although he has yet to speak in Parliament on the issue. Opposition parties are upset with his silence in Parliament.
“This is a test by fire,” he announced as opposition parties got ready to stall Parliament’s winter session on the issue.
“The people of my country will pass it like gold.”
People still returned empty-handed from banks and ATMs because of the cash crunch, but Modi sought to look at the brighter side.
“Banks will give this money as cheap loans to the poor and middle-class.”
He admitted the hardship people were facing, which his government says will be a temporary phase, but reminded the people that the life of the corrupt will be ruined forever.
“Dand diya hai (We have punished the corrupt),” he said.