New Delhi: A truce between India’s government and opposition parties was shortlived as Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Thursday failed to speak in the Rajya Sabha — the upper house of parliament — on demonetisation and the nation’s currency crisis.
Finance Minister Arun Jaitley had assured opposition lawmakers earlied in the days that Modi would speak in the ongoing debate on the currency ban — a promise that led to members of the opposition raising slogans and demanding that he be present for the entire debate.
“The opposition was taken by surprise that the government said the prime minister would participate in the debate. They are now running away from the debate. The opposition is looking for new excuses to run away. It has more noise and little substance against the notes ban,” Jaitley told the media.
On November 8, Modi announced that all 500 rupee and 1,000 rupee notes in circulation would be withdrawn and be replaced with a new version of the 500 rupee bill and a totally new 2,000 rupee note.
Information and broadcasting minister Venkaiah Naidu had also promised the opposition that the PM would make an appearance in parliament to participate and speak on the demonetisation debate.
While the opposition tried to corner the government, Naidu said it was not in Modi’s blood to go back on his decision.
“It is not in Prime Minister Modi’s blood to go back on his decision. The rollback on high-value currency ban will also not be considered,” Naidu said.
Congress leader Gulam Nabi Azad said the PM should have attended the entire debate and shared his views on the subject.
“Whenever a prime minister gave a decision of a large magnitude, he clarifies in the parliament. We are not against demonetisation. But we have a problem that the government did it without preparation and people are suffering. Do we not have a right to convey people’s misery to the prime minister,” Azad asked.
Meanwhile, former PM Manmohan Singh described the currency ban as “a monumental management failure.”
“PM Modi should offer a constructive proposal to end the distress caused to common people by the cash crunch that has followed. Change of rules every day reflects poorly on the PM’s office and the Reserve Bank of India [RBI]. I am very sorry that RBI has been exposed to this kind of criticism — but it is justified,” Singh said.
Singh called it “organised loot and legalised plunder” and predicted that it will lead to a two percentage point fall in Gross Domestic Product (GDP).
“People’s confidence in the banking system is weakened. We do not know what will be the final outcome of demonetisation. This can erode people’s confidence in the currency system. Those who say demonetisation is good in the long run should remember the quote that ‘in the long-run we are all dead’,” Singh added.
Trinamool Congress party leader Derek O’Brien urged the PM to take immediate action to mitigate the sufferings of the common man as a result of the demonetisation exercise.
“Don’t throw youth under unemployment immediately. Some people who are part of the demonetisation order have conducted a poll on their app. Some people are shedding crocodile tears. This is financial chaos. Disaster. How will the poor buy things? There will be starvation deaths,” O’Brien said.
Modi had on Wednesday evening informed his cabinet ministers that a survey conducted on a phone app proved that the people backed his efforts to crack down on black money and corruption.
Responding to that, Bahujan Samaj Party chief Mayawati said on Thursday that the PM should have called for fresh national elections if he wanted a real survey.
“The survey conducted by the prime minister is fake and sponsored. I do not believe in any such survey. The real survey would be the elections. Any election now would expose the government,” Mayawati said.