Narendra Modi in Parliament defends demonetisation, lambasts Rahul Gandhi: 'Not concerned about polls'

Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Tuesday strongly defended his government's decision to ban high value currency notes, asserting in Lok Sabha that the timing for the decision was perfect as the economy was doing well and hit out at Congress whose record he questioned with regard to various issues

Modi, speaking in the Lok Sabha in reply to a debate on Motion of Thanks on the President's address, which was later adopted by the House amid walkout by Congress, he replied point-by-point to the issues raised by the Opposition, including surgical strikes and allocations for MNREGA, agriculture sector and for Scheduled Castes. Opposition had moved 190 amendments to the Motion which were negated.

File image of PM Modi in the Lok Sabha. PTI.

File image of PM Modi in the Lok Sabha. PTI.

On demonetisation over which he has been under sustained attack, the Prime Minister asserted that the timing of the decision announced on November 8 last year was perfect. "Some people have said why was this (demonetisation) decision taken when the economy was doing well...It was the best time for demonetisation as the economy was strong. Had the economy been weak, then we could not have done it successfully," he said.

In this regard, he gave the example of a patient who has to undergo a surgery. "Before subjecting a patient to surgery, a doctor checks all the parameters of the patient and only when those parameters are fine, is the operation done," he said. He also emphasised that the decision was not taken in a haste as contended by some sections. "Don't assume that Modi does anything in a haste. For that you will need to study Modi."

"The move was calculative. The decision was taken after Diwali when trade (across the country) was high," he said, adding the move was like the Swachh Bharat mission to clean the economy of ill-gotten wealth accumulated by evading tax. "Like Swachh Bharat, the decision on demonetisation is a movement to clean India (of corruption and black money)," Modi said.

He said he was aware of political risks but "I am not concerned about the elections". "I am concerned about my country," he said, urging the opposition "to join the mainstream and contribute in the development of the country".

"We were ready for discussion, but instead of discussion the opposition was more concerned about giving TV bytes," he said, referring to the Winter Session that was completely washed out in opposition protests against demonetisation.

Modi took a dig at Congress Vice President Rahul Gandhi for his tom-tommed "earthquake" exposure on the Prime Minister's alleged involvement in corruption.

Acknowledging that demonetisation had brought "difficulties" to the people, the Prime Minister said, however, that the decision was not taken for any political mileage but for the benefit of the poor. "We had to take it and took it," he said.

Modi listed out the steps taken by his government to curb black money, including setting up of SIT, tightening the law on benami, Real Estate Bill, making PAN requirement mandatory for cash transactions of Rs 2 lakh and above and revision of tax treaties with countries like Mauritius, Singapore and USA.

"Had it been for political benefit, you would have done it," he told the Congress.

Explaining why November 8 was chosen for the demonetisation decision, the Prime Minister said post-Diwali is usually a period when the business cycle subsides after peaking during the festival season. He said he was aware that there would be some problems for 15-20 days and things would move towards normalcy in 50 days. "Today I can see that whatever I had analysed, we are moving in that direction," he added.

To questions regarding change of rules 150 times after demonetisation announcement, Modi said it was done to find ways to ease problems of people.

"On the other side, there were people who were trying to find ways to adjust their black money," he said and narrated a Hindi couplet to say that the government wanted to be a step ahead of those indulging in frauds.

Hitting out at Congress for raising the issue of change of rules 150 times on demonetisation, Modi said the previous UPA government had changed rules regarding MNREGA 1035 times during its implementation over six years.

Spelling out benefits of demonetisation, he said it has brought everything on the record, including details regarding who has deposited money, where he has deposited and how much has been deposited.

"There was a time when Income Tax officials used to operate arbitrarily. But that is history.... Now by use of technology and data mining, top names would be culled out without an I-T officer needing to go anywhere. They can just send SMS," he said.

"I urge everyone to come to mainstream and contribute to nation building and help the poor," he said. "Whoever wants to come into mainstream, he can do that and I believe it will make India clean and like the Swachh Bharat Abhiyan, the economy will be cleansed," Modi said.

Responding to questions raised by the opposition whether black money would be curtailed because of demonetisation, he hit out at Congress, saying it had done nothing to fight this menace.

Hailing his decision in this regard of forming a Special Investigation Team (SIT) to bring back black money stashed in foreign banks, Modi cited the Supreme Court order of 26 March 2014 which said "since 1947, nobody in last 65 years thought of bringing back black money stashed in foreign bank accounts. The government has failed in its role for 65 years. You have failed in your duty, therefore we order setting up of SIT. Three years have passed you have done nothing."

In his 90-minute speech, which was punctuated by protests by some Opposition members at certain points, Modi also raised pitch for simultaneous elections to Lok Sabha and Assemblies, asking all parties to consider the proposal, rising above political considerations as "everybody will face some difficulty" if it is implemented.

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Updated Date: Feb 07, 2017 16:39:31 IST

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