Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Wednesday spoke at length in the Rajya Sabha, defending his government’s demonetisation move. “Worlds’ economists don’t know parameters to assess it [demonetisation]. What India did will be a case study for economists worldwide,” said Modi, adding that he, like the Opposition, can also quote 10 foreign economists.
Modi also openly criticised his predecessor Manmohan Singh. He expressed his surprise on how Singh’s image has not been tarnished even though he influenced the country’s economic policies for almost 35 years. “Only Manmohan Singhji knows the art of how to take a shower with his raincoat on,” said Modi.
The prime minister went on a tirade against the Congress. “Former bureaucrat Madhav Godbole in a book wrote that in 1971 Indira Gandhiji was advised by then FM [finance minister] to demonetise, but she rejected the idea. Why did you [Congress MP Anand Sharma] not sue Madhav Godbole?” asked Modi.
After his remark on Singh, the Congress MPs staged a walkout.
Modi also said that demonetisation was a fight against corruption. “The fight against corruption is not a political one,” he added. The prime minister said that the government had the full support of the people ever since he announced that Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 notes would not be legal tender on November 8, 2016. “For the first time, a horizontal divide was visible. Mood of the people completely different from [the] mood of politicians,” Modi said.
The prime minister also claims that the note ban curbed militancy in India. “In 40 days almost 700 Maoists surrendered during [the] period of November-December. This happened for the first time,” said Modi. He went on to add that militants who allegedly looted banks in Jammu and Kashmir were also killed.
Earlier in the day, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley had once again lauded the Modi-led government for taking a step like demonetisation to curb black money. Speaking in the Rajya Sabha, Jaitley said, “The government has taken many steps to curb the menace of black money right since it took charge.”
The minister also took on the Congress and asked why the party had suddenly switched sides. “Why are you [the Congress] sprouting virtues of cash when it has so many economic vices? Your own white paper in 2012 said this,” Jaitley added.
During the Question Hour, the finance minister said he was confident that the charges on digital payments would come down eventually. “I am sure as volumes [of digital transactions] are increasing, the charges will come down,” he said, adding that the Reserve Bank of India was working to fix the Marginal Discount Charges for debit card transactions worth more than Rs 2,000.