NEW DELHI, Feb 7:
Giving a new turn to his demonetisation decision, Prime Minister Narendra Modi today asserted that the timing for it was the “best” as the economy was doing well and needled Congress by questioning its record with regard to various issues.
Modi, who has been under sustained attack from Congress and other opposition parties, gave reasons for the first time for the timing of the decision to scrap old notes of Rs 500 and Rs 1000 in November last year.
Replying to a debate in Lok Sabha on the Motion of Thanks on the President’s Address which was adopted by the House later amid walkout by Congress, he replied point-by-point to the issues raised by the Opposition, including surgical strikes and allocations for MNREGA, agriculture sector and for Scheduled Castes. Opposition had moved 189 amendments to the Motion which were negated.
In his 90-minute speech, which was punctuated by protests by some Opposition members at certain points, Modi also raised pitch for simultaneous elections to Lok Sabha and Assemblies, asking all parties to consider the proposal, rising above political considerations as “everybody will face some difficulty” if it is implemented.
He took swipes at Congress and particularly targeted Rahul Gandhi for his “earthquake” remark, saying it has finally occurred as he referred to last night’s tremors in north India.
On demonetisation, the Prime Minister said, “Some people have said why was this (demonetisation) decision taken when the economy was doing well…It was the best time for demonetisation as the economy was strong. Had the economy been weak, then we could not have done it successfully.”
In this regard, he gave the example of a patient who has to undergo a surgery. “Before subjecting a patient to surgery, a doctor checks all the parameters of the patient and only when those parameters are fine, is the operation done,” he said.
He emphasised that the decision was not taken in a haste as contended by some sections. “Don’t assume that Modi does anything in a haste. For that you will need to study Modi.”
Acknowledging that demonetisation had brought “difficulties” to the people, he said, however, that the decision was not taken for any political mileage but for the benefit of the poor. “We had to take it and took it,” he said.
Modi listed out the steps taken by his Government to curb black money, including setting up of SIT, tightening the law on benami, Real Estate Bill, making PAN requirement mandatory for cash transactions of Rs 2 lakh and above and revision of tax treaties with countries like Mauritius, Singapore and USA.
“Had it been for political benefit, you would have done it,” he told the Congress.
Explaining why November 8 was chosen for the demonetisation decision, the Prime Minister said post-Diwali is usually a period when the business cycle subsides after peaking during the festival season.
He said he was aware that there would be some problems for 15-20 days and things would move towards normalcy in 50 days. “Today I can see that whatever I had analysed, we are moving in that direction,” he added.
To questions regarding change of rules 150 times after demonetisation announcement, Modi said it was done to find ways to ease problems of people.
“On the other side, there were people who were trying to find ways to adjust their black money,” he said and narrated a Hindi couplet to say that the Government wanted to be a step ahead of those indulging in frauds.
Hitting out at Congress for raising the issue of change of rules 150 times on demonetisation, Modi said the previous UPA Government had changed rules regarding MNREGA 1035 times during its implementation over six years.
Spelling out benefits of demonetisation, he said it has brought everything on the record, including details regarding who has deposited money, where he has deposited and how much has been deposited.
“There was a time when Income Tax officials used to operate arbitrarily. But that is history…. Now by use of technology and data mining, top names would be culled out without an I-T officer needing to go anywhere. They can just send SMS,” he said.
“I urge everyone to come to mainstream and contribute to nation building and help the poor,” he said.
“Whoever wants to come into mainstream, he can do that and I believe it will make India clean and like the Swachh Bharat Abhiyan, the economy will be cleansed,” Modi said.
He countered the Opposition attack over his push for cash-less society and singularly targeted Congress for saying that not enough people have mobile phones to carry out digital transactions.
On the one hand, the Congress keeps saying that Rajiv Gandhi had brought about digitalisation in the country but on the other hand, they say there are not enough people having phones, he said.
To questions by the opposition whether black money had been curtailed because of demonetisation, he hit out at Congress, saying it had done nothing to fight this menace.
In this regard, he cited the Supreme Court order of March 2014 which said “since 1947, nobody in last 65 years thought of bringing back black money stashed in foreign bank accounts. The government has failed in its role for 65 years. You have failed in your duty, therefore we order setting up of SIT. Three years have passed you have done nothing.”
Modi agreed with Congress Leader Mallikarjun Kharge that much of black money is parked in real estate and benami properties besides jewellery but questioned why his party did nothing all these years.
“Tell us, in 1988, when Rajiv Gandhi was PM, who had got a bigger mandate than even Nehru. From Panchayat to Parliament, everything was under your control….The Benami Law was enacted in 1988 but it was never notified… What is the reason that for 26 years, the law was not notified?
“Had it been notified at that time, 26 years back, it would have been a step towards cleaning the country and situation would have been better,” Modi told the Congress leader who had attacked him yesterday.
Posing further questions to Congress, he said, “Who were those people who felt, after making the law, that it is better to suppress this law? You will have to answer this.”
He asserted that this Government has taken steps against black money holders.
However, with regard to development of the country, Modi said, “I am not one who says that nobody before me made an effort. I have said it from Red Fort, all previous Governments have made attempts in their own way.” (PTI)