MUMBAI: Launching a vitriolic attack on Narendra Modi on demonetisation issue, Congress Vice President Rahul Gandhi tonight said the prime minister was "laughing" while people were dying in queues outside banks and ATMs to withdraw money and the move will turn out to be a "big scam".
Taking on the Modi government on the eve of Winter Session of Parliament, he said many economists including former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh had found the decision to withdraw the high-value tenders to be without rationale.
The government did not seem to be going after the "big players" in black money like Vijay Mallya and Lalit Modi, he said.
"Nearly 18 to 20 people died in queues and PM Narendra Modi was laughing. He should clarify whether he was laughing or crying," Rahul said, in an apparent reference to the PM's remarks in Japan and Goa. He also claimed that BJP members were alerted beforehand about the demonetisation.
"How can one explain the BJP people in West Bengal depositing crores in high-denomination notes just before PM's announcement on November 8?" he asked. "BJP workers were seen holding up bundles of the new Rs 2,000 notes, as seen from images on the Internet, before Modi announced this decision," Rahul told reporters in suburban Bandra.
"This move by the Modi government will turn out to be a big scam," Rahul said, adding "I don't think even Finance Minister knew about demonetisation announcement. PM does not believe in his own people."
"The PM took decision without thinking. We don't want to reverse it, but at least resolve the difficulties people are facing," he said. "The move will have serious repercussions on financial situation. I spoke to many economists including Manmohan Singh-ji and they said it had no economic rationale but an opportunistic decision based on political calculations." Rahul also questioned the logic behind introducing Rs 2,000 note after scrapping the Rs 1,000 note.
"The entire Opposition is united against Modi government's demonetisation move which has resulted in massive inconvenience for people," Rahul said. "We want the government to sort this out expeditiously. The rural population has borne the maximum brunt. What will happen to a farmer who might have saved cash for daughter's marriage? Banking network is not very strong in remote areas. The transition should have been smooth," he said.
"The real black money players like Vijay Mallya and Lalit Modi are out of the country. The big players are going scot free," he said. "Go after the big players in black money. I don't see that happening. We cannot let farmers and labourers stand in queues for months," he said.
Asked about his own visit to a bank to exchange old notes, Rahul said, "My sense was to be with the people in their hardship and be with them."
On Modi's jibe at him and Congress that those involved in 2G spectrum scam were now standing in queue to exchange Rs 4,000, Rahul said, "Modiji is always attacking me. Those waiting in line outside banks are poor, small traders, government employees. Are they thieves?"
"Some planning should have been there. What to do when crores of people line up outside banks to withdraw cash and new 2,000 rupee notes don't fit into the ATMs," he said.
Asked to comment on Modi's mother standing in a bank queue, Rahul quipped: "Mine and Narendra Modi's styles are different. I won't speak about his mother."