Trust Arvind Kejriwal to ask uncomfortable questions. Always first off the block to seek answers from the government, more specifically from Prime Minister Narendra Modi, he has done it again. This time the issue is demonetisation. And some of his stinging questions make sense.
If some outsider was in possession of a currency note worth Rs 2,000 before it made its public appearance, then the conclusion is as simple as it is harsh: The entire population of the country, which trusted the government has been taken for a royal ride. If bank deposits swelled in anticipation of demonetisation, meaning hoarders of black money had prior information about the change and had enough time to load stashed money into bank accounts, then it means nothing short of betrayal of public faith.
Total secrecy is vital to any such exercise. The purpose is to catch black money hoarders off-guard, leave them with no time to react. If Sanjeev Kamboj, BJP leader from Punjab, did post a picture of the new Rs 2,000 note before 8 November, it means a whole lot of people, at least in the BJP circles, were privy to the information of a demonetisation plan. It is not improbable that the information would have been passed on to many hoarders. This makes many Indians queuing up at banks and ATMs, sacrificing their daily work and maybe wages, to withdraw or exchange money absolute foolish. The demonetisation exercise is thus, as Kejriwal puts it, a 'scam'.
Kejriwal has put doubts in our minds. True to his usual shoot and scoot style, he may not produce hard evidence of all that he alleged. It's the responsibility of the government to refute him and explain to people what happened, both in the case of Kamboj and bank deposits. It has to come out with bank deposit details of the July-September quarter and convince us that the additional deposit, if there's some, is not due to spurious money taken out from lockers at homes. Kamboj may claim the picture he posted was not of the real note. But then the fact that he knew something about new currency notes is a serious matter. The BJP cannot escape by calling all allegations baseless.
Now that Kejriwal has dropped the bomb, politics will take over. The new currency issue hits political parties the hardest because most of their illegal poll-time transactions are conducted in cash of high denomination. Prior knowledge of demonetisation gives unfair advantage to the party or parties who have it. Some commentators have said that the Samajwadi Party in poll-bound Uttar Pradesh will be particularly hit and the fallout of demonetisation suits the BJP well. Expect harsh reaction from it and others.
It is surprising that the Congress saw no hint of foul play in the whole demonetisation matter. Even P Chidambaram, former finance minister, made no remark to this effect while criticising the government's move. It's to be seen whether the party rallies itself on the issue to take on the government.