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Day ahead of protests PM, opposition spar over demonetisation

Congress continues to target Modi over ban on high-denomination currency notes

Image Credit: Reuters
People queue outside an ATM in Ahmedabad yesterday. The central bank said yesterday it is taking all necessary action to “ease the genuine pain of citizens” amid a cash crunch in India.
Gulf News

New Delhi: A day ahead of the nationwide protests planned by the opposition against demonetisation, Prime Minister Narendra Modi defended the move and warned unscrupulous people against using the Jan Dhan accounts of the poor to launder their illicit funds.

Lead opposition party Congress continued to target Modi over demonetising old high-denomination currency notes, terming it a “political move made without preparation” that stemmed from his propensity for “dhamaka politics” (politics aimed at seeking publicity).

The JD (U) will, however, not be a part of the proposed protests as its leader and Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar has supported demonetisation of old Rs500 (Dh27) and Rs1,000 notes.

With Jan Dhan accounts witnessing a surge in deposits, Modi issued a warning to those using poor people to park their illegal money, saying the strict ‘benami’ law would be implemented against such transactions.

He appealed to the people to shift to cashless system of transactions like mobile banking and asked the youth to help in this process by educating the elders and those not literate.

In his monthly radio programme ‘Mann ki Baat’, first after the demonetisation decision, Modi devoted substantial part of the 37-minute broadcast to the issue over which he is under opposition attack.

The Prime Minister said, “Even now, some people think they can bring their black money, the money earned through corruption or the one which is unaccounted for, back into the system through illegal means.

“Unfortunately, they are misusing the poor for this purpose by misleading, luring or tempting them by putting money into their accounts.”

He said “a very stringent law to deal with ‘benami’ transactions is being implemented, that will make such things (transactions) very difficult. Government does not want the people to face such difficulties.”

“I would tell such (unscrupulous) people that to reform or not reform is your wish. Following the law or not is your wish — that the law will take care of. But please don’t play with the life of the poor. Don’t do anything due to which, when there is an investigation, the name of the poor comes on record and he gets into trouble because of you.”

Later, addressing BJP’s ‘Parivartan Yatra’ in UP’s Kushinagar, Modi repeatedly attacked his rivals for calling a ‘Bharat Bandh’ tomorrow.

“We are trying to check black money and they are busy calling a Bharat Bandh. Tell me, what should be stopped? Should black money be stopped or a Bharat Bandh be called?”

Speaking to reporters in Delhi, senior Congress leader Jairam Ramesh, however, said no ‘Bharat Bandh’ has been called and that opposition parties will only hold protests across the country against demonetisation.

Calling demonetisation a political move, Ramesh said it had brought all economic activity to a standstill.

“It is a political decision for three reasons. Prime Minister Narendra Modi believes in ‘dhamaka’ (publicity oriented) approach to politics. This is a dhamaka which has changed the narrative. From November 8 there is no other talk but of demonetisation,” he said.

Ramesh said demonetisation decision was also taken as Modi had seen the writing on the wall in UP, which is due for elections next year and wanted to do something dramatic. The third reason was to cover up his failure to bring back illegal money stashed abroad, he said.

“Does the Prime Minister want to have cashless mandi? Does the PM want to have the unorganised sector working cashless? I am sorry to say it’s a ridiculous proposition, to say that India will become cashless and all these economic sectors will become cashless,” he said.

West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee, who has been at the forefront of the agitation against demonetisation, attacked Modi for his advice to people to shift to cashless transactions.

“Modiji, you have finished India’s economy and growth. We don’t trust you or your mismatched wrong technology which you are advertising for. We want technology and progress. But no section of society is to be left out and tortured while doing this (demonetisation),” Banerjee said in a statement.

“The women of our country will give you a befitting reply. They are the mothers of India. They are the mothers of all, Mr Today’s PM,” the Trinamool Congress chief said.

Claiming that the masses were with the government on demonetisation, BJP voiced confidence that the protest called by certain opposition parties tomorrow will not be successful and said parties like Congress were already retreating and not calling it a ‘Bharat bandh’.

The ruling Samajwadi Party in poll-bound UP said the demonetisation drive smacked of an attempt at “financially harming” rival political parties ahead of elections.