PM Modi quotes Bob Dylan to hail change, jokes about Rs 100 notes
Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Saturday quoted Nobel laureate Bob Dylan to hit out at critics of the government’s decision to recall high-value banknotes, saying “the times they are a-changin” and asked them not to criticise “what you can’t understand”.
Modi’s swipe came 11 days after he announced a ban on Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 banknotes, a surprise decision that has left millions of Indians struggling to exchange the banned currency and withdraw cash from banks and ATMs.
Earlier in the day, Congress president Sonia Gandhi took a dig at leaders who are in a “quest for shortcuts to greatness”, in what is seen as a veiled criticism of Modi’s demonetisation move that her party says has been executed badly.
Party vice-president Rahul Gandhi also targeted Modi. “The cold play while the poor suffer!” he tweeted, referring to the British band Coldplay which performed in Mumbai after Modi’s address through video-conference.
The Congress’s fresh salvo came on a day when at least four more people died, allegedly due to exhaustion from queuing up for several hours to exchange banknotes.
The government says the demonetisation was aimed at curbing black money and counterfeiting of currency. Officials said the income tax department has started seeking explanations from hundreds of individuals and firms that have deposited huge amounts of scrapped currency notes their accounts.
Modi said it was part of his cleanliness drive. “Border ke us paar ki safai ho, ya kale dhan se bhari tijori ki safai ho, sab kuchh jor shor se chal raha hai (Whether it is cleansing across the border or cleaning of lockers and treasuries filled with black money, everything is on),” he said, drawing a parallel between the war on terrorism and black money.
The Prime Minister described Dylan — a shock choice for this year’s Nobel prize for literature — as one of his idols and quoted an entire paragraph from his iconic song, ‘The Times They Are A-Changin’, which had become an anthem for pent-up frustration among American youth in the 60s.
Modi also saw the funny side of the demonetisation move, saying if he had to sing at a Coldplay event the youngsters “would want your money back in 100-rupee notes”.
The Prime Minister doffed his hat at the youngsters, pointing out that addressing the crowd of over 80,000 was a “welcome break” from “old files and cold Delhi”.
He also said it was smart to just address the audience instead of being there in person otherwise many of the youngsters would be lining up to ask for their money back and that too in Rs 100 notes.
Besides the opposition, Modi has come under criticism from the BJP’s ally Shiv Sena, which defended a controversial statement by Congress leader Ghulam Nabi Azad in Parliament.
“The difference is in the attackers. Pakistan attacked us in Uri, where in the case of demonetisation (deaths) it was our own rulers,” the Sena said in an editorial in its mouthpiece Saamana.
Though there is no official confirmation, opposition parties are linking the death of more than 50 people to the demonetisation.
Two of the deaths on Saturday were reported from Uttar Pradesh. Another man died in Rajasthan’s Jhunjhunu district while a woman was brought dead to a hospital in Haryana’s Karnal.
Though the queues in banks were relatively shorter on Saturday, officials said it could be because of certain restrictions including allowing only senior citizens to exchange old notes and catering to own customers.
The government has struggled to fill the country’s more than two lakh ATMs as a bumpy execution of the scheme has left the poor, small traders, farmers and women with little cash in hand to even meet daily expenses.
A south Delhi resident, Imtiaz Alam, was given Rs 10 coins weighing about 15 kgs when he withdrew Rs 20,000 from the Jamia Cooperative bank.