The second anniversary of demonetisation on Thursday saw the Congress leading the opposition assault on Prime Minister Narendra Modi for “wrecking” the economy with his “reckless” move even as the BJP defended it saying it sought to “formalise the economy”.
Congress President Rahul Gandhi said the ban on Rs 1,000 and Rs 500 notes was a “cruel conspiracy” and a “money laundering scheme” meant to help the Prime Minister’s cronies.
“Prime Minister’s monumental blunder, the government’s spin doctors, including our incompetent Finance Minister, have the unenviable task of defending an indefensible, criminal policy,” he said in a statement.
“India will discover, no matter how much the government tries to hide it, that demonetisation wasn’t just an ill-conceived and poorly executed economic policy with ‘innocent intent’, but a carefully planned, criminal financial scam,” he said.
In a scathing indictmnet, former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said the “havoc” unleashed by demonetisation on the economy and society was evident to everyone and that its “deeper ramifications were still unravelling”.
Calling the decision “ill-fated and ill-thought”, the renowned economist asked the Modi government to refrain from any further unorthodox, short-term economic measures that could further dent the economy and financial markets.
“Today is a day to remember how economic misadventures can roil the nation for a long time,” he said, asserting that the economy was yet to “recover from the demonetisation shock”.
Observing that the full impact of the demonetisation was yet to be understood and experienced, Singh urged the government to restore certainty and visibility in economic policies.
West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee and her Delhi counterpart Arvind Kejriwal too lashed out at Modi.
Trinamool Congress supremo Banerjee accused Modi of cheating the nation and ruining the economy with the “demonetisation scam”.
“Though the list of financial scams of Modi government is endless, demonetisation was a self inflicted deep wound on Indian economy which even two years later remains a mystery why the country was pushed into such a disaster,” said Kejriwal.
CPI-M General Secretary Sitaram Yechury accused Modi of “single-handedly destroying the economy, lives and livelihoods.
“Modi and his minions claimed demonetisation will end black money, finish corruption, terminate terrorism, and bring only digital transactions. Two years later, Modi is silent,” he said.
DMK President M.K. Stalin and PMK leader S. Ramadoss also flayed the “demonetisation disaster”.
Amid the opposition’s attacks, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley sought to justify demonetisation saying its objective was not confiscation of currency but to move towards a more formal economy that he claimed was paying rich dividends.
He said a shake-up was essential to make India move from cash to digital transactions that would have an “impact on higher tax revenue and a higher tax base”.
Demonetisation was a key step in a chain of important decisions taken by the government to formalise the economy, he said, arguing that it will lead to more revenue and more resources for the poor, better infrastructure and a better quality of life for the citizens.
The Congress ridiculed Jaitley for being “an apologist of an arrogant Prime Minister”.
“The Finance Minister should stay away from defending the decision as he was never consulted before when it was taken. His defences are an insult to the people of the nation who suffered countless miseries,” said Congress leader Anand Sharma.
A host of Union Ministers including Prakash Javadekar, Dharmendra Pradhan and Radha Mohan Singh hailed Modi for the demonetisation and attacked the opposition for criticising the move.
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