NEW DELHI: The Congress party unleashed a two-pronged attack on Prime Minister Narendra Modi on the currency crisis on Tuesday in what seemed to be a counter to economist Jagdish Bhagwati’s ‘qualified support’ to the demonetisation move. While Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi accused the PM of “waging a war against the poor,’’ former finance minister P Chidambaram called it “the biggest scam” of the year.
There’s no doubt that the Congress has an eye on the main chance, sensing the growing restiveness among the people. After two days of bank closure and dry ATMs, queues were back on Tuesday and so was the political slugfest.
Chidambaram debunked demonetization as a “thoughtless move” that was “worse than a natural calamity’’ and lamented that the PM did not consult their “own man Yashwant Sinha," finance minister in the Vajpayee regime, “so the monumental mismanagement could have been avoided’’.
Skepticism about the move, opposition leaders claimed in private, has crept into the corridors of power with a section of the senior bureaucracy blaming “a few’’ for the move.
Maintaining his snappy tirade against the PM, Rahul Gandhi quipped that “Modi's vision of a cashless economy has rendered the poor cash less, robbing them of their hard-earned money.’’ He also claimed that demonetisation has enabled the conversion of black money into white.
Peddling his pro-Left line, the Congress VP alleged that the NDA government has “blocked” the money of the poor through a currency ban that favours a “handful of industrialists”. Injection of liquidity into banks that extended bad loans was the real intent of the move, he alleged.
“The Prime Minister has brought honest people into the streets while the rich and the corrupt are taking money through the back doors of banks. It was done to ensure that the poor deposit their money in the banks, which will be used to repay the debt of around Rs 8 lakh crore owed by these industrialists. Modiji wants the money of the poor to remain in the banks for the next six to eight months,” he said.
Rahul also accused the Prime Minister of shifting goalposts by listing the objective of the measures, ranging from unearthing black money to curbing counterfeit currency.
“Only 2 paise out of Rs 100 is counterfeit. Two days after Modiji made the announcement, terrorists, after they were slain, were found having new currency. Then he says he will make the economy cashless. He has made it cashless indeed, with the poor having no cash,” he said.
The Congress is seeking a thorough probe by a special investigation team on the recent cash seizures of Rs 2,000 notes across the country.