Opposition leaders in the Rajya Sabha tore into the central government over its move to demonetise Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 notes during the Winter Session of Parliament on Wednesday. While the Lok Sabha was adjourned for the day because a sitting member had died, demonetisation was the first topic on the agenda in the Rajya Sabha.

Congress leader Anand Sharma (pictured above) asked the government whether it had consulted the Reserve Bank of India before it decided to demonetise Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 notes. “Is the government saying that 86% of the currency notes in the market all either black or counterfeit?” Sharma asked.

The senior leader also accused the government of creating anarchy in the country. “Which law allows you to stop us from withdrawing our own money from the banks?” he asked.

Sharma also pointed out that the government’s decision was causing major inconvenience to the public in the name of fighting black money, while leaders of the Bharatiya Janata Party – the ruling party at the Centre – were attending former minister and mining baron G Janardhan Reddy’s daughter’s wedding. “Rs 500 crore has been spent by Janardhan Reddy for his daughter’s wedding function. It is being attended by BJP leaders, and they talk about fighting black money. Why don’t you arrest him?” he said.

Power and Energy Minister Piyush Goyal, however, said the country had welcomed the Centre’s decision. “This is no curb on anyone’s honest income. This move attacks those who have illicit cash,”

Bahujan Samaj Party chief Mayawati demanded the presence of the prime minister in the Upper House as leaders began to discuss the Centre’s demonetisation decision. Other leaders, too, have asked Modi to address Parliament about the demonetisation.

Communist Part of India (Marxist) leader Sitaram Yechury questioned the logic behind selective demonetisation, and said that only 6% of black money in India is in cash. “Is ‘I control your personal life” the message?” Yechury said. He also accused the government of tipping off its own people before the announcement and demanded an investigation into it. “How did your unit in West Bengal deposit money before the PM announced it [demonetisation]?” he asked.

Bharatiya Janata Party ally Akali Dal, however, called the move a “cleaning process”. Akali Dal leader Naresh Gujral said, “The money collected during this period should be used to help those in need of bank loans.”

On Tuesday, the prime minister had urged Opposition parties to support the government’s “crusade against black money”. In an address to all members of Parliament, he had asked all parties to work together and change the negative image of politicians in India.

GST to be hit

While Home Affairs Minister Rajnath Singh said he was certain that Bills related to the Goods and Services Tax Bill would be passed in Parliament during the month-long session, Congress MP Jairam Ramesh said, “Right now, the main issue is the surgical jumla of the demonetisation by Prime Minister Narendra Modi. The GST is not in our radar.”

Several Opposition parties, including the Congress, Trinamool Congress and Aam Aadmi Party, have been preparing to corner the ruling National Democratic Alliance over its surprise move to demonetise Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 notes. The parties called the move a severe inconvenience to the common man, while some even accused the BJP of warning its top brass before announcing the decision.

On November 8, Modi had said that the demonetisation of high-value currency notes was an attempt to crack down on corruption and black money in the country. He has thanked the public for their cooperation while exchanging their old currency and promised that their inconvenience will only last 50 days.