After former Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh described the management of demonetisation as a “monumental failure”, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley offered a scathing retort. “It is disappointing to hear from people who were in charge of the government when the most black money was generated, most corruption scandals came to the fore,” he said. A litany of scams emerged in the years before Dr Singh lost the 2014 election heavily to Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
The opposition, Mr Jaitley alleged, was “taken by surprise” this morning when it was informed that Prime Minister Modi will speak in parliament about his sudden decision to cancel high-denomination notes.
The announcement allowed the debate on demonetisation, which began on the 16th, to continue, said Mr Jaitley, adding that the opposition has no real interest in engaging on the reform.
For the last few days, the government had said that instead of the PM, the government’s stand would be explained by the Finance Minister in the Rajya Sabha or Upper House, where the government is in a minority. The opposition said that wasn’t good enough and stalled parliament with repeated disruptions.
The opposition, “unwilling and unprepared” for a debate, was left without an excuse today, said Mr Jaitley, explaining that with the PM’s participation, “their basic condition was knocked down.”
On November 8, in an unscheduled televised address, PM Modi said that within hours, 500 and 1,000 rupee notes would be outlawed and people have till the end of the year to deposit them in banks. While senior opposition leaders have said they agree with the PM’s crackdown on black or untaxed money, the government has plunged the country into a cash crisis by failing to adequately minimise the consequences of the ban on notes.
The government disagrees, stating that despite long lines stretching over nearly 10 days at banks, people welcome the reform and are willing to tolerate short-term inconvenience.