The winter session of Rajya Sabha opened on Wednesday with a united Opposition mounting an assault on the government over demonetisation, saying it had led to “economic anarchy” in the country.
The Opposition alleged selective leak of the information before the announcement which should be probed by a Joint Parliamentary Committee. Among those who demanded a JPC probe were Congress' Pramod Tiwari, JD(U) leader Sharad Yadav and CPI(M) leader Sitaram Yechury.
Govt rejects claims of information ‘leak’
The government rejected as baseless the opposition charge that there was “leakage” of the November 8 decision and said everyone was taken by surprise which is why there are “initial” problems.
Opposition presents united face on demonetisation
Joining ranks over the raging issue, parties like Congress, JD(U), RJD, SP, BSP, Trinamool Congress, Left and AIADMK slammed the government, particularly targeting Prime Minister Narendra Modi, for making Rs 500 and Rs 1000 denomination notes invalid and said the “ill-timed” and “ill-conceived” step had severely hit the common people, the farmers and the poor.
Alleging that the information had been leaked to BJP units and ‘friends of BJP’, a number of opposition parties demanded a Joint Parliamentary Committee probe into it.
During a discussion on demonetisation, which was taken up after suspension of all business in response to notices given by a host of opposition members, a scathing attack was made on the government which strongly defended the step as one taken in national interest and to end corruption and black money, which it linked to terror activities in the country.
Opposition demands PM Modi to be present in Rajya Sabha
During the course of 7-hour debate which remained inconclusive, there were repeated demands by the opposition members that the Prime Minister should be present in the House to listen to the members. Leader of Opposition Ghulam Nabi Azad said Modi, who did not come to the Rajya Sabha on Wednesday, should at least be present on Thursday and possibly intervene.
What Congress leader Anand Sharma said?
Initiating the debate, Congress leader Anand Sharma used wit and humour to attack Modi, saying he was “insensitive” to problems caused to the common man.
The “ill-timed” and “ill-conceived” move has unleashed “economic anarchy” in the country and benefited a few, he said.
“Your government is insensitive,” he said, adding Modi was riding a bullet train in Japan when old, women and common man were queueing up at banks at 3 am to get currency to buy their daily needs.
Questioning the government’s contention that the step was taken to end the menace of black money, the former Union Minister said a bigger Rs 2000 note has been brought which is similar to the paper on which ‘churan’ is sold and “sheds colour”.
Sharma alleged that the information on demonetisation was selectively leaked. “Your BJP units have deposited crores of rupees (just before the November 8 decision),” he said.
What Power Minister Piyush Goyal said?
Power Minister Piyush Goyal, who spoke on behalf of the ruling side, rejected as baseless the opposition charge that there was “leakage” of the decision and said everyone was taken by surprise which is why there are “initial” problems.
“There is no politics in it. It is a step taken in national interest,” he said, adding it will help the country in the long run. “If anyone has the strength to take on black money and corruption, it is the BJP government and Narendra Modi,” the minister said.
He claimed that common people are out in support of the government’s move which is aimed against graft and terror and that the step will lead to curbing inflation and tax rate may come down.
Goyal claimed that the country has welcomed this initiative of the Modi government and it is natural that some people who have black money and are indulging in corruption and blackmoney are worried about it.
“There is no curb on honestly-earned money. So nobody should have a problem,” he added.
What BSP chief Mayawati said?
Launching a scathing attack on the government, BSP Supremo Mayawati compared demonetisation with an “economic emergency” thrust on the nation.
The move, she said, would rebound against BJP in the 2019 general elections and the party would face defeat in the assembly elections in five states including Uttar Pradesh, Punjab and Assam.
“Masses are in pain. The Prime Minister must be sleeping after taking pills. The move is without preparedness and people will punish BJP in 2019 during general elections. People of 5 states going for elections including Assam, Uttar Pradesh and Punjab will punish BJP,” she said, adding that the poor and the middle classes were the worst sufferers.
“It is an immature decision taken in haste and the whole country feels that is an ‘economic emergency’,” she said adding that it was like a “Bharatbandi situation.”
“Many died not from shock but from problems. We are not opposed to flushing out black money from the system but the decision to ban notes has been taken in haste without proper preparation,” she said, adding that private hospitals were closing their doors to patients while the farmers have no money to buy seeds.
What Ram Gopal Yadav said?
Ram Gopal Yadav, who was expelled from SP but spoke on behalf of the party, joined Anand Sharma in alleging that information on demonetisation was “leaked” and termed it as a scam. He sought a JPC probe.
“A BJP leader in Punjab had tweeted on November 5 about the new Rs 2000 note. How did this happen? This is an issue of concern. There is a scam in this. This should definitely be probed,” he said.
The government decision has led to lot of hardships in the villages and the villagers have stopped buying normal things like toothpaste and hair oil, he said.
The common people, especially the poor and the housewives were put to great hardship through this move and if elections are held today they will teach this government a lesson, said Yadav, a leader of poll-bound Uttar Pradesh.
“Do not hold elections now. If you meet and ask for votes from housewives in villages, they will beat you up with ‘belan’ and you will have to embalm your back with turmeric,” he said, adding that you might lose elections if you hold early polls.
What JD(U) leader Sharad Yadav said?
JD(U) Sharad Yadav, while seeking a JPC probe into the suspected leak, said the sudden move was akin to “jumping out of a moving train”.
He said unlike the rich, who the PM said were standing in queue, it was the poor, handicapped and old people who were doing so to get their hands on their hard earned money.
He alleged that while loans worth Rs 7,000 crore was written off today by banks including Rs 1,200 crore of Vijay Mallya and said the Prime Minister has made the honesty of the country to stand in queues.
Yadav also took a dig at Arun Jaitley, saying he was sure that the Finance Minister was not part of the decision making on demonetisation, because if he had been, Jaitley would have tipped him off. This remark left most members including Jaitley laughing.
What CPI(M) leader Sitaram Yechury said?
CPI(M) leader Sitaram Yechury said of the 130 crore population in the country, only 2.6 crore have credit cards.
He took a dig at Modi and narrated the infamous quote of Queen Marie Antoinette during the French revolution who had said that people can eat cakes when they don’t have bread. “We have Modi Antoinette who says ‘If you don’t have paper, use plastic’”.