Demonetisation: Opposition ups the ante ahead of Narendra Modi's 50-day deadline

After Prime Minister Narendra Modi's maverick 8 November announcement of demonetisation of Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 currency notes, he assured the nation in a passionate appeal: "Cooperate with me and help me for 50 days and I will give you the India you desired." The prime minister's 50-day deadline will be over on Friday with confusion still prevailing among Indians as to what they desired from their government and what did they get actually. Though the jury is still out on demonetisation and the Centre's fight against black money and corruption, the NDA government is engaged in a war with the Opposition parties; battling, sometimes dodging the volley of questions that is being directed at them.

Modi's late evening announcements have become ominous now. All eyes will be on him when he will be addressing the nation at 7.30 pm on New Year's eve. Will it be a report card on the impact of demonetisation or another big announcement — the prime minister is holding the cards close to his chest. Meanwhile, the Opposition parties — sometimes united and most often fractured — have trained their guns on the government. Leading the pack is Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi.

On the prime minister's home turf in Gujarat, Rahul had accused Modi of accepting money from the Sahara conglomerate when he was the chief minister of the state. In a joint press conference held recently, the Congress vice-president along with Trinamool Congress chief and West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee sought the prime minister's resignation if he fails to keep his promise of improving things after the 50-day window. Now, Congress have demanded a white paper from the government and listed out a set of demands.

 Demonetisation: Opposition ups the ante ahead of Narendra Modis 50-day deadline

Prime Minister Narendra Modi. File photo. Reuters.

Some of the demands include that Modi should double the MNREGA wages and the number of days each labourer can work, besides giving 50 percent rebate in Income Tax and Sales Tax to shopkeepers and 20 percent bonus on MSP for Rabi crops to farmers and waiving their loans. Coming out with the 'Charter of Demands' before the media, Rahul sought a list of all those who have deposited above Rs 25 lakh before demonetisation was announced and sought relief to those badly affected including provision of Rs 25,000 to at least one woman of each BPL family.

"After 8 November, how much black money has come out and how much economic loss has the country suffered due to demonetisation," he said.

Moreover, the Congress on Thursday announced that the party will launch a nationwide protest across the country from 6 January on the twin issues of note ban and corruption charges against Modi. "The Congress will start a three-phase nationwide agitation from January to protest against demonetisation and corruption charges against the prime minister. The first phase will start from 6 January," said the Congress communication department in-charge Randeep Singh Surjewala.

Mamata, who has been very vocal in her opposition to demonetisation, had termed the move as "the biggest scam in Independent India". She had earlier said that her party will hit the streets with the slogan 'Modi hatao, desh bachao' from 1 January. "Our party's only slogan will be Modi hatao, desh bachao and we will organise meetings throughout the state from 1 to 8 January," Mamata had said.

Sitaram Yechury, general secretary of the CPM, had launched a scathing attack on the Modi government during the Winter Session of Parliament and had compared Modi to French queen Marie Antoinette. "It reminds me of Marie Antoinette who during the French Revolution said if they (people) don't find bread, why don't they eat cakes. Now, we have Modi Antoinette who says: 'If you don't have paper, use plastic'," he had said.

On the approaching 50-day deadline, Yechury said that the hardships of the people have increased instead of easing. "We are now awaiting to know what are the new announcements. Based on that, the Left parties will reach out to people through protests. We also urge other Opposition parties which are against demonetisation to coordinate efforts," he said.

While JD(U) president and Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar said that the party would analyse the demonetisation decision on completion of 50 days of the drive, chief of JD(U)'s coalition partner RJD, Lalu Prasad Yadav said that he will be mobilising the opposition parties in a protest against demonetisation. Hitting out at the 50-day deadline, Prasad tweeted: "Does Modi know how many times he has chopped and changed his own decisions in the last 50 days? He is totally clueless, puzzled and jumping here and there."

In another tweet, the RJD chief had said: "PM should chose his favourite chouraha (crossroads) where people could punish him for creating a chaotic condition in the name of demonetisation to fight black money."

Delhi Chief Minister and Aam Aadmi Party chief Arvind Kejriwal not one back down a good fight had called Modi "anti-people" and asked him to take responsibility for the people's hardships. Kejriwal, however, might be a bit caught up what with the resignation of Najeeb Jung and the appointment of a new Delhi Lieutenant Governor and the upcoming Punjab Assembly Election.

Meanwhile, ahead of the deadline, prominent ministers of the NDA government addressed the media. While Union Minister Smriti Irani thanked the people of the country supported Modi's move, Venkaiah Naidu said, "Opposition's only job is to use the tactics of spit and run."

Law and Justice, Information Technology Minister of India Ravi Shankar Prasad, during a press conference, dismissed charges made by the Congress against Modi and said that Modi or BJP President Amit Shah have no connection whatsoever with businessman Mahesh Shah.

Union Finance Minister Arun Jaitley on Thursday said that the impact of demonetisation is clearly visible with tax collection figures seeing double-digit growth.

"There has been a 26.2 percent increase in central indirect tax collection till 30 November," he said at a press conference in New Delhi, adding till 19 December, direct tax collection increase has been to the extent of 14.4 percent against a growth rate of only 8.3 percent previous year.

With inputs from agencies

Updated Date: Dec 29, 2016 18:27:56 IST