PM Narendra Modi, Rahul Gandhi battle it out over demonetisation in poll-bound UP

It was Prime Minister Narendra Modi's first public rally after the conclusion of a washed out Winter Session of Parliament. The setting in Kanpur was perfect: A huge responsive crowd waiting to hear Modi after he had inaugurated a few projects of public interest.

Modi took the stage with the intention of starting a new public discourse on India after demonetisation - a new kind of society of us versus them and a country divided between the Opposition and the citizens who have patiently faced hardships for a better future.

He didn't lose a minute in declaring that in the last few days, wherever he went in Uttar Pradesh, he didn't see a wave of change, but witnessed the onset of "parivartan ki andhi" (a storm of change). According to him, every citizen in Uttar Pradesh, where polling dates are likely to be announced in a week's time, was yearning for a change from the Samajwadi Party-led goondaraj.

 PM Narendra Modi, Rahul Gandhi battle it out over demonetisation in poll-bound UP

Prime Minister Narendra Modi in Kanpur on Monday. PTI

Modi found this public rally to be an appropriate occasion to speak his mind on demonetisation, take on his rivals, particularly the Congress. He raised points, which he ideally should have raised in Parliament, but could not as the Winter Session was a complete washout. "Mai hairan hun ek taraf hum corruption free karne ke liye ladai lad raha hain, hamara agenda bhrastachar aur kala dhan bandh karne ka hai, unka (Opposition) agenda hai sansad band ho (I'm upset that on one side, we are trying to stop corruption and black money, but the Opposition only wants to stop Parliament."

He further said that the whole month was wasted in Parliament. They did not even listen to President Pranab Mukherjee's pleas. Hitting out at Congress, he said those who ruled the country so far were scared that people will seek account of their deeds while they were in government. He hinted at the AgustaWestland VVIP chopper scam, though did not make any direct reference.

Based on diary notes, maintained by principal middleman for the VVIP chopper deal Christian Michel, India Today had revealed that "the family wanted their agreement honoured" and at another place said the "family" was to be paid 28 million Euros.

Modi said post demonetisation, "the country has got divided into two parts — a handful of political leaders who wants to protect corruption and black money and the people of the country who have patiently faced hardships to eradicate corruption and black money."

The prime minister is aware that if he has to fight and win this war, he has to keep public opinion on his side, particularly that of the urban middle class and rural poor, which form his core constituency. He reiterated that problems of the poor and middle class wouldn't end until corruption and black money was rooted out. He even thanked everyone for bearing the current hardship.

Aware of the growing public opinion against funding of political parties, Modi welcomed the Election Commission's latest move to urge the government and political parties to not accept cash, unaccounted public donations beyond Rs 2,000, a drastic cut from the earlier provision of Rs 20,000 from individual donors. He said that he has talked about it in all party meetings and wanted Parliament to discuss it.

Taking a dig at Congress' erstwhile treasurer (later president) Sitaram Kesri, Modi said, "Congress party had made a law on exemptions on political party funding, but yesterday I saw Congress leaders jumping to defame us on the issue. When Sitaram Kesri was the treasurer of Congress, it used to be said na khata na bahi, jo Kesri kahe woh hi sahi. No accountability, that's their style of book keeping."

Lashing out at Rahul Gandhi's claim that Rajiv Gandhi had empowered people with computer and mobile phones, he said, "Now, they claim that the poor don't have mobile phones. Itna jhut bolte ho..aap inko pahchano ye log kaise jhut bolte hain. Kaise gumrah karte hain. (You should identify how they lie and deceive people)."

Modi also had to explain how some people managed to get hoards of new currency notes, while ordinary people stood at ATMs for hours for a meagre Rs 2,000. "With the use of technology, we have caught people with new notes. Have you ever seen anything like this in the past. Those who can buy bank officers can do anything...this is a fight for the honest and poor of the country," he said.

About an hour later, Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi landed in Jaunpur to address a public rally. He didn't talk about his potential to shake the earth by his speech and having proof of Modi's "personal corruption", instead he alleged that Modi made the demonetisation move for the benefit of 50 rich friends (bussissmen and industrialists) and that was his singular motive to put 99 percent of 125 crore Indians on path of suffering and hardships.

He said that demonetisation was a diversionary tactic as people were asking questions to Modi about black money.

The Gandhi-Nehru family scion also said that the corrupt does not spend money, but invests in bullion and real estate so that it would multiply. Though he did not speak about the Uttar Pradesh Assembly polls, he gave the impression that he has set the agenda to emerge as Modi's challenger in 2019.

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Updated Date: Dec 20, 2016 01:16:09 IST