Amit Shah, the president of India’s ruling Bharatiya Janata Party, hit out at political rivals on Friday for opposing the central government’s move to scrap Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 banknotes to fight corruption.
“Why are they upset?” asked Shah, daring opposition parties to make the demonetisation of currency notes a poll issue. He, however, clarified that the government did not take the step in view of the upcoming elections, including that in Punjab and Uttar Pradesh.
His attack was directed at the Congress party, Arvind Kejriwal’s Aam Aadmi Party and Uttar Pradesh stalwarts Samajwadi Party and Bahujan Samaj Party, which have criticised the move on the grounds that people were facing problems.
“People are closely watching the reaction of political parties...People should questions these four parties. They have exposed themselves,” Shah said.
In a surprise move, the Narendra Modi government said earlier this week that Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 notes in circulation will not be considered legal from the midnight of November 8. Making his announcement, the Prime Minister said the move was aimed at rooting out corruption and wiping out counterfeit currency notes.
The government also said people can deposit the old notes at banks and post offices and take home new notes that were introduced on Thursday.
But long and chaotic queues were witnessed at banks and ATMs after they opened following a day’s break to cope with the new arrangement. Many citizens, especially those in rural areas, were confused about what to do next and how to exchange the currency bills. And many thought their money was now useless.
Shah admitted that people were initially facing difficulties, but “some pain is inevitable when a historical decision is taken”.
He said there was a lot of discussion before the notes were banned, and appealed to the countrymen to support the move, which he said was a big blow to “terrorists, Naxalities (read Maoists), fake currency and hawala operators”.
“The Narendra Modi government has embarked on a campaign to end corruption,” Shah said, “The step which has been taken will greatly benefit the economy.”
He reiterated the government’s stand that the “middle class, the poor and small traders will face no problems”.