Note Ban Part of Plan to Em­power Poor, Says Modi

PM de­fends DeMo in LS, re­jects crit­i­cism by ‘hyp­o­crit­i­cal’ Congress and other parties

The Economic Times - - Front Page -

Our Po­lit­i­cal Bureau

New Delhi: Prime Min­is­ter Naren­dra Modi vig­or­ously de­fended de­mon­eti­sa­tion in Par­lia­ment on Tues­day, pro­ject­ing it as part of his gov­ern­ment’s pro-poor ac­tion plan and launched an­other fierce at­tack on the Op­po­si­tion in his re­ply to the Lok Sabha de­bate on the mo­tion of thanks for the Pres­i­dent’s ad­dress.

Modi said he would not flinch in his cru­sade to en­sure that the weak­est got their due even if it meant risk­ing the ire of the mighty, who thrive on black money. Equally com­bat­ive in de­fend­ing In­dia’s sur­gi­cal strike on ter­ror­ist bases across the line of con­trol, Modi said op­po­si­tion parties were forced to change their crit­i­cal tone when they sensed the na­tion­wide sup­port for the army ac­tion.

The prime min­is­ter char­ac­ter­is­ti­cally mixed ag­gres­sion with sar­casm from the out­set.

“The earth­quake has come fi­nally,” he said. “Though we had been warned of it ear­lier, I am re­lieved no dam­age is caused… Our gov­ern­ment, any­way, is in full alert for help­ing the needy.” Os­ten­si­bly re­fer­ring to Mon­day night’s tremors across north In­dia, the jibe against Congress vice-pres­i­dent Rahul Gandhi — not present in the House — was un­miss­able. Gandhi had pledged an earth­quake over an ex­pose against the PM that didn’t quite pan out.

Speak­ing in Par­lia­ment for the first time on note re­call that he an­nounced on Novem­ber 8, Modi twinned de­mon­eti­sa­tion with the sur­gi­cal strike, mir­ror­ing the strat­egy of Bharatiya Janata Party in the on­go­ing assem­bly elec­tion cam­paign, es­pe­cially in Ut­tar Pradesh.

De­mon­eti­sa­tion was aimed at those with un­ac­counted wealth, he said.

“It does not mat­ter how big you are, you will have to give back what be­longs to the poor,” Modi said. “My fight is for the poor to en­sure they get their due. I will not re­treat from this… Ear­lier the dis­cus­sion was about how much (black money) has gone (out of the coun­try), now peo­ple ask, ‘How much has Modi brought back?’ This is how dis­course has changed af­ter we have as­sumed office. I im­mensely en­joy this change in dis­course.” Modi as­serted his gov­ern­ment had cho­sen the tim­ing of de­mon­eti­sa­tion well as the econ­omy was strong enough to with­stand af­ter­shocks fol­low­ing the tra­di­tional Di­wali busi­ness boost. “Peo­ple asked, why did we bring de­mon­eti­sa­tion into ef­fect when the econ­omy was do­ing well,” he said. “As a doc­tor would say, the best time to per­form a surgery is when the body is com­ple- tely healthy.” He also crit­i­cised the Op­po­si­tion for find­ing fault with the gov­ern­ment’s push for a dig­i­tal, cash­less econ­omy that would make it eas­ier to track trans­ac­tions. This was hyp­o­crit­i­cal as Congress often sought to take credit for mov­ing the coun­try into the com­puter age un­der Ra­jiv Gandhi, he said.

CHANG­ING RULES

Re­spond­ing to the Op­po­si­tion ac­cu­sa­tion that de­mon­eti­sa­tion rules were changed by the Re­serve Bank of In­dia and the gov­ern­ment over 100 times, Modi hit back by say­ing that the pre­vi­ous Congress-led gov­ern­ment had changed the ru­ral job pro­gramme’s rules more than 1,000 times.

He likened the ini­tia­tive to an­other of his pet pro­grammes. “Like Swachh Bharat, the de­ci­sion on de­mon­eti­sa­tion is a move­ment to clean In­dia,” he said.

Ac­cus­ing the Op­po­si­tion of dis­rupt­ing Par­lia­ment when he was ready to speak on the note swap, Modi took a dig at Congress floor leader Mal­likar­jun Kharge.

“Agree with Kharge-ji’s state­ment that black money is be­ing held in jew­ellery and prop­erty,” Modi said. “The House wants to know when did he re­alise this… Black money in the form of cash is the pri­mary source of cor­rup­tion. It is this cash that is in­vested in bul­lion, real es­tate, in for­eign banks.” He asked why Congress gov­ern­ments chose not to act on de­ci­sions against be­nami prop­erty and hadn’t taken steps to un­earth black money.

SUR­GI­CAL STRIKE

Chid­ing the Op­po­si­tion for op­pos­ing the sur­gi­cal strike and in­sist­ing that the pub­lic mood forced his rivals to di­lute their crit­i­cism, Modi said, “No mat­ter how much praise is heaped on our armed forces, it is not enough. Our mil­i­tary is com­pletely ca­pa­ble of de­fend­ing the na­tion… Sur­gi­cal strike was a big de­ci­sion but no one is ques­tion­ing it like they ques­tioned de­mon­eti­sa­tion.”

BUD­GET

Modi de­fended the de­ci­sion to ad­vance the Bud­get to Fe­bru­ary 1 from the end of the month, say­ing the change in sched­ule will help gov­ern­ment pump in re­sources and ben­e­fit those who need it the most, such as farm­ers. He re­minded Congress that the pro­posal to change the Bud­get pre­sen­ta­tion sched­ule had in fact been rec­om­mended by a panel dur­ing the pre­vi­ous gov­ern­ment.

He dra­mat­i­cally took off his wrist watch, turned it around to show how in­de­pen­dent In­dia slav­ishly fol­lowed the tra­di­tion of 5 pm Bud­get pre­sen­ta­tion, which had been es­tab­lished to suit the erst­while colo­nial masters in Bri­tain and asked why tim­ings be changed, keep­ing in mind the needs of In­dia. The last BJP-led Atal Bi­hari Va­j­payee gov­ern­ment had ad­vanced the Bud­get tim­ing to 11 am from 5 pm.

Modi also de­fended the ab­sorp­tion of the rail­way bud­get into the main one, say­ing trains were no longer the sole mode of mass trans­porta­tion and there­fore a holis­tic ap­proach was needed. He also said the gov­ern­ment had rolled out a large num­ber of so­cial sec­tor schemes in a short span with big­ger out­lays while weed­ing out mid­dle­men and plug­ging leak­ages.

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