In a freewheeling chat with Firstpost, former Congress member of Parliament Milind Deora spoke at length about Rahul Gandhi, demonetisation and his own political journey over the years.
Deora recalled that when demonetisation was announced, the Congress vice-president did not immediately oppose the move. "At the time, the party was saying that we should oppose the move. However, Rahul Gandhi said was that we should wait and he said that this could be a game-changing decision."
Deora said that it was only later that the party criticised the move for bad implementation.
"Our first reaction was that we supported it and we wanted to see it being implemented well. But when it was implemented so badly, we, as an Opposition party, had to raise the issue," he said. The Congress leader said that Mamata Banerjee and Arvind Kejriwal were the ones who criticised the note ban decision immediately after the announcement.
The former Minister of State for Communication and Information Technology further said, "We were able to put a lot of pressure on the government and our intervention helped the government make changes, sometimes on a daily basis."
"Demonetisation can be called anything but a reform. If it has been implemented in this manner, then the government has to be attacked. Otherwise, someone could do something despotic again," he remarked.
Deora said that many people who are knowledgeable about the economy are of the view that oil prices may go up in the future. "If oil prices start heading north again, there could be a serious problem in India. This will be in a context where there is a semi-recession because of demonetisation and GST," the Congress leader said.
Deora said that it's the party's view is that other methods should be employed to encourage people to use non-cash alternatives rather than cash. He recalled that former finance minister P Chidambaram, in his budget speech in 2016, had announced a transaction tax on cash transactions to disincentivise them.
He argued that in spite of demonetisation, habits of the people with regard to using cash have not changed.
'Modi was biggest opponent of GST earlier'
Deora also recalled that although many in the Congress had said that the party should oppose the passing of the Goods and Services Tax (GST), Gandhi decided against doing so. Gandhi has said in the past that GST was a Congress initiative and that the BJP had not 'understood the spirit' behind the tax.
"Many leaders in the Congress at the time had said that the party should oppose the passing of the GST. They said that the BJP had held GST hostage when we were in power, and we should not allow it to pass. Narendra Modi, the biggest proponent of GST, was at the time its biggest opponent. However, Rahul Gandhi said it was important to own it and let it happen," he said.
The Congress leader remarked that the BJP 'has an event for every decision.'
"If there's a decision on digitisation, the focus is more on who is on the dais, rather than how the people will be benefited," Deora said.