Asserting that it was always “nation first” for the BJP, Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Friday accused the Congress and other Opposition parties of safeguarding the interests of dishonest and corrupt people by stalling Parliament proceedings over the demonetisation. Citing a book that mentioned then Union finance minister Y.B. Chavan going to then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi with the recommendation of a committee on demonetisation, where she was quoted asking whether there were “no more elections to be fought by the Congress Party”, Mr Modi said if the Congress had taken the right decision at the right time, the country would have been in a better position now. He also claimed that late Communist leaders Jyotirmoy Basu and Harkishan Singh Surjeet were also in favour of demonetisation to hit out at the Left parties for backing the Congress on the issue.
Addressing the BJP parliamentary party on the last day of the Winter Session of Parliament, Mr Modi said that unlike in the past when the Opposition parties stalled the House over scams and in order to expose corruption, the Congress-led Opposition was doing it as the government had taken steps to curb black money and corruption. He told party leaders they had to fight to rid the country of corruption and black money with confidence and urged them to popularise the government’s thrust on digital transactions as a “way of life”.
The PM also attacked former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, who called demonetisation “organised plunder and legalised loot”. Mr Modi quoted his comments made in 1991 to say he had once used the “language of threat” against tax evaders, but his tone had completely changed now. “Why? Because he is worried about his party, not the country,” Mr Modi said of Dr Singh.
The PM also cited the Supreme Court’s observations against the UPA government over lack of action against black money to make his point.
“In our country, ruckus in Parliament or not letting it function had happened earlier too. It was a little longer this time. But there is an essential difference. Earlier, the ruckus and disruptions happened because of massive scams and graft and the Opposition would unite and fight on the principle of honesty… This is the first time when the treasury benches have taken a step against corruption and many in the Opposition have come together to support the dishonest,” the PM said. He added political values had fallen so much that the Opposition parties were now brazenly speaking in favour of the dishonest, something that used to be done secretively earlier.
Attacking the Congress, Mr Modi said it had made a law against benami assets in 1988 but never notified it or framed rules and regulations, ensuring the legislation never came into force. Lamenting the lack of debate in Parliament, the PM said it would be good had the government’s critics shown strength to start a discussion on merit.
He also expressed his gratitude to Odisha and Bihar chief ministers Navin Patnaik and Nitish Kumar for their “open support” for the demonetisation decision despite their ideological differences with the BJP.
“We do not think in parts. There is a full-scale design. It is only that we show our cards gradually,” he said, and reiterated that the people’s woes would gradually begin to ease after 50 days of demonetisation being announced.
Facing criticism that a slew of measures taken by his government would give unbridled power to the bureaucracy, he said he would not allow “afsarshahi” (rule of bureaucrats) and had asked the authorities to do no “post-mortem” of people’s transactions prior to November 8, when the demonetisation decision was taken, as they shift to digital modes of payment.
Referring to reward schemes offered by his government as a “Christmas gift” to customers and traders shifting to online platforms, he asked party leaders to promote these. Quoting Chanakya Niti, he said light-heartedly that money collected through unfair means goes waste in the 11th year, a reference to the UPA’s 10-year rule before he took office.
On a day that marks the anniversary of Bangladesh’s liberation in 1971, Mr Modi also targeted the Opposition for its remarks on the Army’s surgical strikes across the Line of Control. The Opposition in 1971-72 did not seek any evidence of the Army’s valour unlike that of today, Mr Modi said.