Give me 50 days over scrapped notes, punish me if problems persist: Modi
Prime Minister Narendra Modi choked with emotion during an impassioned speech in Goa on Sunday as he appealed to people to give him 50 days to end their hardship after his government abolished high-value banknotes.
The BJP-led government pulled 500- and 1,000-rupee notes out of circulation from November 9 in a blitz against black money, counterfeits, corruption, and terrorist funding. But the switch hasn’t been smooth with banks and ATMs kiosks recording long queues of people waiting for hours for their turn to deposit defunct notes and get new ones, triggering public anger and opposition’s criticism.
Modi defended his government’s decision on Sunday, saying this is “an important step in my fight” against black money and corruption.
“I have asked the country for just 50 days. If after December 30, there are shortcomings in my work or there are mistakes or a bad intention found in my work, I will be prepared for the punishment that the country decides for me,” he said.
His appeal is viewed as a counteroffensive to blunt the opposition’s move to corner the government over the demonetization exercise.
“Did you think Modi will just come and go like other political parties … I am not here for the qursi (high office). I left my home, family, everything for the country,” he said.
“I know what kind of powers I have taken on. I am aware they will not let me live. Let them do what they want … Brothers and sisters give me 50 days.”
Modi’s political rivals called the government’s decision anti-poor and anti-farmer, saying the poorest section of society is facing the maximum hardship as they often keep hard cash at home for various expenses.
The Prime Minister tried to allay the farmers’ fears, promising at a function in Pune later in the day that they won’t be taxed when they deposit the defunct money in banks.
“This is a 70-year-old disease I have to eliminate in 17 months … I am looting what they had accumulated over 70 years,” Modi said, underscoring that the step was aimed at people hoarding illicit funds and not the common man.
He reminded the opposition Congress of the scams and scandals during its 10-year rule before he came to power.
“The kind of people who were involved in the coal scam and the 2G scam … now they stand in a queue to replace Rs 4,000,” he remarked in response to Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi’s move on Friday to queue outside a bank in New Delhi to express solidarity with the people.
“I know what kind of powers I have taken on. I know the kind of people who will be against me now. I am looting what they had accumulated over 70 years,” Modi said in his speech at the Shama Prasad Mukherjee indoor stadium in Bambolim village near Panaji.
The Prime Minister warned of “more projects” to fight corruption to rid the country of black money and corruption, listing steps his government has already taken in the past two years.
“If any money has been looted India and left Indian shores, it is our duty to find out about it,” he said.
The measures include a special investigation team to track illicit funds stashed abroad; signing bilateral agreements, including with the US, to track deposits of unaccounted Indian money; and opening 200 million Jandhan bank accounts for the poor.
“They thought attack Modi and he will get scared. Burn him alive, but Modi won’t back off,” he said, underscoring how the opposition targeted him in Parliament over his Jandhan scheme.