When Delhi Chief Minister, Arvind Kejriwal, announced his press conference at 10 amon Saturday morning to offer evidence that Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s 8 November currency crackdown was leaked much in advance to his ‘friends’, it appeared like the Aam Aadmi party chief indeed has evidence to nail the government. But his presser showed that he didn’t do his homework before raising this important question. There wasn’t any hard evidence Kejriwal could produce, except certain issues already known and debated in public.
But, some of the issues raised by Kejriwal at the presser are highly significant and needs to be probed.
One, how did Sanjeev Kamboj, who describes himself on his Twitter handle as advocate (State) Co-Convener BJP Law & Legal Affairs Department Punjab, tweet the images of new Rs 2,000 currency notes on 6 November, two days before Modi announced the currency ban and four days before the notes were first issued by bank branches on November 10?
Second, did the Modi-government indeed leak the information to its party leaders well in advance to warn them about what is coming? Did the government pass Rs 2,000 notes to them before? Or is it just that some dumb employee at the government Mint posed for a selfie with the Rs 2,000 note just after printing it to impress his family and friends?
These aspects need to be probed.
If this charge is found to be true, then further investigations needs to be done on the transactions done by BJP’s money managers and their benamis/fronts in the last six months. Going by the RBI data, there has been a substantial surge in bank deposits in the July-September quarter. Total deposits garnered by the Indian banks rose by an abnormal Rs 6,64800 crore in the July-September quarter to a record Rs 102.08 lakh crore. This is the highest quarterly jump ever recorded.
Did party president Amit Shah help his party workers change enough Rs 1,000s and Rs 500s to Rs 100s and Rs 50s to avoid the hassle of standing in long queues in the months prior to the currency crackdown? According to a report in the The Hindu, the government had already ordered a probe into the possible leakage of Rs 2,000 currency notes and the circulation of its image in social media. The Hindu report had quoted an unnamed finance ministry official as saying, “During the printing and distribution of notes from the mint to the Reserve Bank’s vaults, it is possible someone took a photograph [and posted it]. But nobody knew about this decision of demonetization.”
But, even if that is the case, there needs to be a thorough independent probe to bring out the truth, especially in the context of the ensuing major state elections in Uttar Pradesh and Punjab. If the government indeed leaked the information in advance to BJP, then the Modi government is facing serious trouble that could undo a major part of the goodwill it earned even among its political enemies with the bold currency crackdown to break the back of fake currency network and address at least a part of the domestic black money problem.
In an article yesterday, Firstpost had raised this point by saying, “If someone has strong evidence that the government leaked the operation plan to interested-parties in advance enabling them to take precautions well in advance, they should point fingers at the Modi government. But, questioning the very efficiency of the currency crackdown either shows their ignorance or bias. That is not productive criticism.”
Kejriwal showed promise when he dared to raise a big question with hard evidence on the very honesty of the government in executing a key economic reform, but the Delhi CM came to the presser with social media clips and some vague information/allegations. Had Kejriwal put his party machinery to use to trace bank transactions involving BJP leaders in the months prior to the currency crackdown, or BJP’s alleged link to the network of dalals on the prowl in the currency market to accept the Rs 500/Rs 1,000 notes for a commission, and announced the findings in the presser, the story would have been different.
Kerjriwal’s other charges, such as the difficulties faced by the common man in getting cash for daily needs after the currency ban isn’t anything different from other politicians, including Congress Vice President Rahul Gandhi and Trinamool chief Mamata Banerjee have raised. Politicians have jumped on to the currency politics since it is something that directly connects with the common man. Gandhi’s appearance at the ATM queue and Mamata’s remarks on normal life coming to halt post currency ban shows the politics of currency crackdown.
Kejirwal’s question is indeed relevant but the fact is that when a major currency crackdown is on to cleanse the system from fake currency and the black money rackets, some immediate pain is inevitable. That is the price society has to pay for the country to emerge as a stronger economy. Fake currencies and black money negates the gains in the formal economy and benefits only the crooks. Bank ATMs have started functioning but are running out of money in a few hours because none of the ATMs have the capacity to meet the panic-driven cash demand of the common man. When every individual withdraws Rs 2,000 whether they need it or not, ATMs will run dry within hours, hence the commotion. It will take a few days before normalcy returns to the banking world.
Kejriwal’s demand to roll back the demonetisation exercise is bunkum since there is an urgent need to address the issue of fake currencies and black money in the domestic system. It is a much-needed step in the right direction. But, his allegations need to be probed. The key takeaway from the Kejriwal presser is the important question he raised on whether the Narendra Modi-government leaked the information on currency ban to its ‘friends’ and well-wishers. This charge, however, needs a thorough, independent probe.
(Data by Kishor Kadam)