I am not being allowed to speak in Parliament on demonetisation, Prime Minister Narendra said on Saturday, countering the opposition’s allegations of running away from a debate on the government’s shock recall of high-value banknotes.
“We are ready to debate on demonetisation but I am not being allowed to speak in Lok Sabha so I am speaking in a jan sabha (public meeting),” a combative Modi said at a farmers’ rally in Banaskantha district in his home state.
“Parliament is not being allowed to function. What is happening in Parliament has even anguished our President, who has tremendous political experience.”
The Opposition had initially sought a debate under a rule that entails voting but later relented to one without voting. However, the government appeared reluctant to concede to the demand.
The ongoing winter session of Parliament has seen repeated disruptions with the Congress-led opposition demanding a debate on the demonetisation move that sucked out 86% of the currency in circulation, leaving millions of Indians struggling to withdraw cash.
More criticism followed on Saturday with West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee and Janata Dal (United) leader Sharad Yadav mocking Modi’s latest comments.
“Modi babu knows that #DeMonetisation now derailed. Except giving ‘bhashan’, he has no solution,” Banerjee tweeted, ratcheting up her attack on the Prime Minister.
The Trinamool leader has led a series of agitations – even in Delhi and Patna -- against the move, which she says has severely impacted the people.
Yadav too attacked Modi over the issue. “Whatever he is saying outside in speeches, he must come to Parliament and say during the debate.”
Modi, however, put the onus on the opposition for the impasse.
“Who is unhappy with corruption? Not those perpetrating corruption...it is the poor, the common citizens who are unhappy,” Modi said.
“For 70 years, the honest have been looted. But now I am standing with them and that’s why they are being provoked,” the Prime Minister added.
Modi, who has defended the demonetisation as a crackdown on black money and counterfeit currency, said the government’s decision was aimed at strengthening the “hands of the poor of the nation”.
“For how long can poor of India be told to pay for houses in cash. For how long will poor be asked - you want pucca bill or kuccha bill,” he added, referring to a common method employed by many to avoid taxes.
Modi’s comments also appeared to be targeted at Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi who said on Friday, “The Prime Minister is giving speeches across the country but is afraid of coming to the Lok Sabha and is not willing to sit there.”
“If they allow me to speak in Parliament, you shall see an earthquake will come,” Gandhi told journalists.
“This is the biggest scam in India’s history. If I say this inside the House, Modiji will not be able to sit.”