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Rahul Gandhi’s double-barrelled attack on PM Narendra Modi over notes ban, Rafale deal

Decision was not a mistake but a ploy to help the rich launder their black money, says Rahul Gandhi at a press conference.

india Updated: Aug 30, 2018 19:42 IST
HT Correspondent
Rahul Gandhi,Congress,BJP
File photo of Congress president Rahul Gandhi (left) and Prime Minister Narendra Modi (right), with external affairs minister Sushma Swaraj and other leaders at Parliament House in New Delhi. (Sushil Kumar/HT Photo)

Congress chief Rahul Gandhi stepped up his attack on the NDA government on Thursday, unleashing a double-barrelled attack on Prime Minister Narendra Modi for the decision to demonetise high-value currency notes and buy Rafale fighter jets. Gandhi, 48, said the notes ban was a “huge scam” to help to help Modi’s “crony capitalist friends”.

“It was not a mistake but a deliberate attack on the people,” said Gandhi at a press conference in Delhi, day after the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) declared that almost all the banknotes invalidated in November 2016 had returned to the banking system.

The Congress president insisted that demonetisation was designed to help the PM’s biggest 15-20 businessmen friends whitewash their black money at the cost of small businessmen.

“Modi took money from you and straightaway put it in the pockets of his friends... crony capitalists,” Gandhi said.

“This one, can’t be called a jumla... it can be called a huge scam,” he said.

Modi cancelled Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 notes worth Rs 15.44 lakh crore from the midnight of November 8-9, 2016, in an unprecedented move the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)-led government described as a crackdown on black money, or untaxed, unaccounted cash stashed away by dishonest individuals, terror financing and counterfeit currency.

In its latest annual report released on Wednesday, RBI said as much as 99.3% of the junked banknotes by value, or Rs 15.3 lakh crore, had returned to the banking system, confirming what had been widely perceived by economists and banking experts a long time ago: that much of the money had found its way back or that some individuals had found ways of laundering their black money.

Gandhi kept on hurling the darts at the National Democratic Alliance’s decision to buy 36 Rafale planes made by the French company Dassault as well. The deal was announced in April 2015 and the agreement signed a little over a year later.

But the Congress later claimed that India is paying more for the multi-role aircraft to France’s Dassault than the deal negotiated by the previous Congress-led United Progressive Alliance’s.

The deal has also become controversial because one of the offset deals signed by Dassault is with the Reliance Group of Anil Ambani. The Congress alleges the earlier deal was scrapped and a new one signed just to provide Ambani this opportunity for an offset deal. Both the government and Reliance have repeatedly denied this.

On Wednesday, finance minister Arun Jaitley had countered the Congress that demands a parliamentary panel should probe the purchase of the multi-role jets and underlined that the Congress boss had got his facts wrong. For one, he stressed that the Congress, which claims that the NDA government was buying the aircraft in an overpriced deal, was comparing oranges and apples.

“How much does he know and when will he know... Can you compare a basic aircraft’s pricing with a loaded aircraft? Can you compare simple aircraft with a weaponised aircraft? Arun Jaitley told the news agency ANI in an interview on Wednesday.

First Published: Aug 30, 2018 17:39 IST