Parliament continues to be disrupted with the Opposition demanding Prime Minister Narendra Modi be present during the debate to answer queries on the government’s surprise decision to scrap Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 notes.
The government maintains it is not for the Opposition to decide who it fields to reply to the debate.
The Opposition has accused the government of unleashing “financial emergency” as people scramble for cash, queuing up for hours, even overnight, outside banks and ATMs.
While the Prime Minister has stayed away from the proceedings, he has spoken several times on the demonetisation move outside Parliament after making the surprise announcement on November 8.
His first reaction came from Japan. After he announced the shock decision in a televised address to the nation, Modi left for Japan on November 10 for the annual bilateral summit.
Addressing the Indian community in Kobe in central Japan, Modi thanked the people of India for supporting his demonetisation drive despite hardships.
On his return, the Prime Minister attended three public functions on November 13 in Goa, Belgavi in Karnataka and in Pune in Maharashtra, where he made emotional appeals to the people, seeking their support for 50 days to help him eliminate black money and fight graft.
The government has set a December 30 deadline for the exchange of old high-value notes. He also said the demonetisation drive was not the end of his fight against illicit money.
He has even turned to Nobel winner and legendary US musician Bob Dylan to defend the decision. Addressing the Global Citizen Festival – British band Coldplay headlined the event -- in Mumbai through video conference on Saturday, the PM talked about demonetisation. He went on to quote Dylan’s iconic song The Times They Are A-Changin to claim public support for the “second cleanliness drive”, a reference to the currency switch.
Again on Sunday, the Prime Minister admitted that people were inconvenienced due to cash crunch but asserted the country would emerge victorious after the “trial by fire”.
Speaking at a rally in Agra, he attacked West Bengal chief minister and Trinamool Congress leader Mamata Banerjee for opposing the move, saying those who looted the poor with chit-fund scams were questioning the government’s intention.
It’s not just demonetisation on which the PM has come under attack from the Opposition. The Congress has parodied Modi’s poll call of “Congress-mukt Bharat (Congress free India)” by saying the country was forced to come to terms with a “PM-mukt Parliament”.
In August, Modi faced criticism for staying away from Parliament as it cleared a bill that set the ball rolling for the country’s biggest tax reform, the goods and services tax.
It was for the first time in independent India that a constitutional amendment bill was discussed, debated and passed without the Prime Minister being present, the Congress said.
The Opposition was also angered by Modi’s absence from Parliament during discussions on issues such as Kashmir, Dalit atrocities and Arunachal Pradesh and Uttarakhand. The Centre was left red-faced after the Supreme Court overturned its decision to impose President’s rule in the two states.
Congress leaders allege the Prime Minister is “not in the habit” of answering questions. He likes addressing rallies and meetings as he doesn’t have to answer the crowds but in Parliament, the Opposition will question him, they say.