Congress leader Rahul Gandhi on Sunday criticised the central government over demonetisation, and alleged that Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s decision was aimed at helping a few of his “crony capitalist friends”.

Meanwhile, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said that demonetisation helped curb black money, increase tax compliance and formalisation and gave a “boost to transparency”. “These outcomes have been greatly beneficial towards national progress,” he tweeted.

The Congress is observing the fourth anniversary of demonetisation as “Vishwasghaat Diwas [Betrayal Day]”. On November 8, 2016, Modi had announced that Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 notes that were then in circulation would no longer be valid. Citizens were given less than two months’ time to exchange the notes for the new Rs 500 and Rs 2,000 notes. Modi said the decision was taken to wipe out black money and to combat terror financing.

In a video released as part of the Congress’ campaign called “SpeakUpAgainstDeMoDisaster”, the politician said the question was how the economy of Bangladesh “surpassed” India’s. “The government says that the reason is Covid-19 but if that is the reason, there is Covid-19 in Bangladesh and elsewhere in the world also. The reason is not Covid-19, the reason is ‘Notebandi [demonetisation]’ and GST,” he said.

The International Monetary Fund on October 14 had estimated that India’s per capita Gross Domestic Product will shrink 10.3%, ending March 31, 2021, while the figure in Bangladesh is expected to grow 3.8%.

Gandhi said on Sunday that Prime Minister Narendra Modi began an “assault on the Indian economy” four years ago, adding that he hurt labourers, farmers, and small shopkeepers. “Manmohan Singhji said the economy will lose 2% and that is what we saw,” he added.

The prime minister said that it was a fight against black money, but it was actually a fight against the people. “You stood in lines, not his crony capitalist friends. You put your money in banks and PM Modi gave that money to his friends and gave them a loan waiver of Rs 3,50,000 crore.”

Gandhi also criticised the prime minister for implementing what he called was a “faulty GST” and small, middle-sized businesses were destroyed as he paved the way for his “three to four crony capitalist friends”. The Congress leader claimed that now farmers were being targeted with the three new farm bills.

The Congress has maintained a sustained criticism of demonetisation. In September, Gandhi said that India’s poor economic performance, which was reflected in the Gross Domestic Product figures, was a direct result of the government’s demonetisation policy. In August, he alleged that the Bharatiya Janata Party-led central government implemented demonetisation, the Goods and Services Tax, and the coronavirus lockdown with an aim of destroying India’s informal sector.

In July, Gandhi claimed that in the future, Harvard Business School will have case studies on failures of the Narendra Modi-led government, such as its handling of the coronavirus crisis, demonetisation and the implementation of the Goods and Services Tax.

Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman highlighted the advantages of implementing demonetisation. “To fulfill its promise of freeing India from corruption, the Modi government implemented demonetisation four years ago on this day, today,” her office tweeted. “The move that was an unprecedented attack on Black Money also led to better tax compliance and a major push to digital economy.”

She added that demonetisation not only brought about transparency and “widened the tax base”, it also reduced counterfeit currency and increased circulation. “While surveys conducted post-demonetisation led to unearthing of undisclosed income worth several crore, Operation Clean Money helped formalise the economy,” another tweet read.

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