New Delhi: At the meeting of the Public Accounts Committee in New Delhi on Friday, the efforts of the Congress to corner the Narendra Modi government over the issue of demonetisation didn’t fructify.
Despite doing its homework and chalking out a strategy to extract maximum information from the RBI governor on the impact of demonetization on the Indian economy, the panel headed by KV Thomas didn’t succeed much in its efforts.
While the Congress was prepared to grill Urjit Patel over the issue, it wasn't prepared for the checkmate that followed.
Patel stumped the panel by listening to its questions patiently and sealing the day with the reprieve that he would come with written answers in the next meeting.
According to sources, the PAC chairman Thomas had met Congress vice president Rahul Gandhi a day before and both had more than an hour-long discussion. Later, Thomas met former prime minister Manmohan Singh.
“After meeting Rahul Gandhi, Thomas also met Manmohan Singh to get technical tips on note ban and demonetisation. Later, he also had a discussion with another senior Congress leader," a source said.
As the agenda of Friday’s meeting was ‘monetary policy and impact of demonetisation on Indian economy’, Congress members ensured to come prepared on demonetisation issue at the PAC meeting to corner the Modi government by quizzing the RBI governor and his team.
Patel reportedly refrained from answering the key question asked by the panel — "Who initiated the demonetisation process?"
The sources said that he has sought a fortnight to come up with a complete reply to all queries in writing.
However, the RBI chief while informing the panel, reportedly emphasised that demonetisation would have a short-term impact on GDP but have a positive mid and long-term impact on Indian economy.
Patel’s statement got a strong backing from the PAC members from the BJP.
The BJP reportedly said that the previous UPA government had also thought of demonetisation but "it didn’t have the courage to do it in fear of backlash."
"All the political parties welcomed the note ban and none opposed it. This demonetisation move is like a bitter pill and its advantage will be visible in the long term. It has also led to less-cash transaction like payment through cheques and debit and credit cards. Why only one person should pay tax? Let the others also do it. If we have financial transactions through banking instruments, it’ll be on record and no one can escape paying taxes," a BJP member reportedly said during the meeting.
Supporting the government’s move, a panel member, who is also a BJP MP, said that the common man had welcomed demonetisation and it would prove helpful in economic development in future.
On RBI governor refraining from answering the questions, Thomas said, "We asked a series of questions, but RBI governor was not ready to answer. They have sought time to do so and will get back after a fortnight."
Apparently, the PAC chairman is of the opinion that "RBI is an institution and its governor can’t be grilled like a minister or MP in the Parliament."
In a meeting of the Parliamentary Standing Committee held on 18 January, Manmohan Singh had come to the rescue of Patel and reportedly advised him not to reply to questions which could create problems for the central bank.
Singh, who was also a RBI governor earlier, had said, "RBI as an institution needs to be respected."
The sources said that Thomas has agreed that the government should be given time to respond on the volley of questions posed by the panel.
Besides the RBI governor, Friday’s meeting was also attended by Patel’s deputy SS Mundra and deputy CAG H Pradeep Rao. As the Union Budget is just around the corner — on 1 February — the finance ministry officials will face the panel after the Budget.
Updated Date: Jan 20, 2017 22:18 PM