United Opposition attacks Modi government over note ban in Parliament

A united Opposition in the Lok Sabha used demonetisation to launch an attack on the government on Monday, as the House started debating the motion of thanks to the President’s address to Parliament on January 31.

Leader of the Congress in the Lok Sabha, Mallikarjun Kharge, demanded that Prime Minister Narendra Modi apologise for the note ban. “You can fool some of people for some time, but you cannot fool all the people all the time,” he said, quoting former US President Abraham Lincoln. 

“This is a failure on all fronts,” he added. Modi was in the House as Kharge spoke.

Modi had announced the withdrawal of the old series Rs 1,000 and Rs 500 notes on November 8 last year, declaring it to be an attack on black money and counterfeit currency. 

On December 30, he had announced a number of sops, purportedly as benefits in lieu of the pain caused by the exercise. The Union Budget, presented on February 1, also had demonetisation as an overarching theme.

Last week, the Leader of the Opposition in the Rajya Sabha, Ghulam Nabi Azad, had launched an attack on the government over the note ban. Trinamool Congress (TMC) member Derek O’Brien and Samajwadi Party’s (SP’s) Neeraj Shekhar, too, had targeted the Centre.

On Monday, Kharge said 125 people had died during the note ban but the PM had not even condoled the deaths. TMC’s Saugata Roy, too, attacked the government. 

Some of the other issues raised by the Opposition were the government’s alleged failure in effectively implementing the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Generation Act, protecting the farming sector, and preventing atrocities against Scheduled Castes.

The government tried to mount a defence. Minister of State for Culture Mahesh Sharma, who opened the debate, said the whole country had backed the PM’s decision.

In the Rajya Sabha, Congress member Rajiv Shukla said all the Bharatiya Janata Party members were trying to present a rosy picture to the PM, as they did not want to make him angry. He added former prime minister Indira Gandhi had not publicised even the victory in the 1971 Bangladesh Liberation war the way PM Modi had publicised note ban.

Members in both the Houses also attacked the Centre over the widespread rural distress and loss of jobs. Communist Party of India (Marxist) leader Sitaram Yechury blamed the government for trying to create an atmosphere of fear and religious intolerance in the country. “After the surgical strike, the number of our jawans who have laid down their lives in terrorist attacks has doubled, compared to three months earlier,” he said.

On September 29 last year, the government claimed the army had carried our surgical strikes across the Line of Control, purportedly in retaliation to a terror attack on an army base on September 18. Pakistan had refuted the claim.

Explaining the impact on the economy, Yechury said around 45 per cent of the country’s gross domestic product (GDP) was in the informal economy, which also employs around 80 per cent of the people.

Combined Attack

  • The govt failed to effectively implement the rural job scheme
  • Failed to protect the farming sector
  • Failed to prevent atrocities against persons from Scheduled Castes
  • PM did not condone the deaths due to note ban
  • Bharatiya Janata Party members are trying to present a rosy picture to the PM, as they do not want to make him angry
  • Rural distress and loss of jobs are widespread
  • The govt is trying to create an atmosphere of fear and religious intolerance in the country

Business Standard is now on Telegram.
For insightful reports and views on business, markets, politics and other issues, subscribe to our official Telegram channel