Chaotic, long queues returned to banks after a three-day holiday on Tuesday, even as the government and the Opposition exchanged barbs and braced for a faceoff in Parliament over the shock recall of high-value banknotes that has led to a cash crunch.
Many banks ran out of money within hours as officials struggled to cope with a backlog in moving cash after the break. In Delhi, people in woollen and jackets lined up early in the morning. In the old quarters of Chandni Chowk, police guarded crowded banks and ATMs.
“The pressure was huge… more currency is needed. There is a big demand and supply mismatch with 500 notes… there are more 2000-rupee notes which is a problem,” said a senior official of State Bank if India.
Prime Minister Modi has sought 50 days to tide over the cash crunch but that hasn’t pacified the Opposition. Protests over the move have virtually washed out the winter session of Parliament, and little legislative business is expected in its remaining three days.
Prospects of legislative business has further dimmed with the opposition gearing up to demand the sacking of minister of state for home, Kiren Rijiju, for his alleged role in a Rs 450-hydro power project in Arunachal Pradesh that is mired in corruption.
“We don’t know what will happen tomorrow. After Rahul speaks, Congress MPs will not allow Modi ji to speak. We will not let it happen,” said a BJP floor manager.
Indication of a stormy session came on Tuesday when the government and the opposition Congress once again carped against each other over the demonetisation move.
Finance minister Arun Jaitley said the Congress was “extremely uncomfortable” with demonetisation because of its “scandalous record”, responding to his predecessor P Chidambaram who termed the move as “the biggest scam of the year” and “the worst assault on the poor”.
Chidambaram also demanded a special investigation into demonetisation, demanding the RBI publish minutes of its November 8 board meeting before Modi announced his decision to scrap high-value notes.
Earlier in the day, Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi continued his attack on Modi, accusing him of “waging a war” against the poor.
“Modi wants the money of the poor people parked in banks for 6-8 months so that the banks could waive off Rs 8 lakh crore corporate bad loans,” he told people at a market in Dadri, Uttar Pradesh.
He also told villagers that in a cashless economy “5% of the money transacted will go to big corporates”.
Meanwhile, the government said Prime Minister Modi will be present in Parliament for the next three days and it is ready for a debate, although both sides will take a final call on their strategies on Wednesday morning. The ruling BJP has issued a three-line whip to its MPs to be present.
Rahul Gandhi has also called a meeting of party MPs later on Wednesday to discuss how to take the party’s campaign against demonetisation forward.