It’s time Congress Vice President, Rahul Gandhi, who presents himself as the leader of a united opposition to Prime Minister Narendra Modi on the demonetisation issue, end the high-drama and start asking the right questions.
Gandhi’s threat to Narendra Modi that he has proof of corruption that will expose the PM is likely to turn out to be a dud. Reason: Had he actually possessed what he claims to have, Gandhi would have already detonated the corruption bomb in public. Remember, he is someone who trashed an ordinance in broad day light, mocking the then prime minister.
The fact is that Congress and other opposition parties have failed so far to bring the government for a face-to-face discussion on demonetisation issue in Parliament. With only a day left for curtains to fall in the winter session, there isn’t much hope of any productive discussion on one of the biggest disruptive reforms India has ever seen. Besides causing ruckus and disorder in the houses or Parliament and making headlines, Gandhi and his party have utterly failed in putting political pressure on Modi-government to answer some critical questions.
The questions are:
One: What is the actual objective of the demonetisation exercise? Was it conceived as a measure primarily to fight black money/corruption/terror or as a major disruptive reform to bring a lasting change in the society to the cashless economy? This question is utmost relevant because there is tremendous pain, whether transient or permanent, both for the common life and the economy due to this exercise that no one can dispute. The government’s narrative has changed dramatically over the last one month on the objective of demonetisation. Asking this question and getting an answer is critical to do a cost-benefit analysis of the whole exercise.
Two: If the objective is the originally stated ones (recovering black money and killing fake currency), how much unaccounted assets have been recovered so far by the taxmen since 8 November? So far, the government hasn’t offered a clear answer to the public about the recovery of unaccounted money after demonetisation was announced. Gandhi should ask the numbers to prime minister Modi instead of conducting such high-decibel wasteful sessions.
Three: What is the total quantifiable cost of implementing demonetisation to the exchequer? The government owes an answer how much money is required to print the currency stock needed to replenish the illegal tenders? Also, is there an estimate of the cost to the economy on account of a severe hit to the services sector, manufacturing, rupee depreciation, job losses and putting the entire banking system to the task of demonetisation for full two months? How big is the total quantifiable cost of demonetisation, compared to the total quantifiable, tangible benefit to the exchequer.
Four: When will the cash crunch end? What is the actual printing capacity of the four mints owned by government and the RBI and how much new currency has been printed so far? Is there an estimate of releasing sufficient chunks of cash to the system by a certain date? How long does the government intend to go on with the withdrawal curbs. Clarity on these questions is needed to ease public concerns.
Five: Did the government actually have a plan to re-monetise the economy after ‘several months of preparation’? If yes, why was the common man subjected to such torture for a long time? Is there evidence to show that there was indeed a plan in place taking into confidence the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) and other experts? Who were the experts Modi-government consulted before implementing such a massive economic reform exercise?
Six: If the shift to cashless economy is the main goal, going by the apparent change in the government narrative, did the government need to put millions of citizens to torture and trauma? Shouldn’t the shift to cashless economy happen in a more gradual manner rather than pushing it down the throats of people, especially given that there is not enough internet penetration, financial literacy, and laws in the country required for a massive transition? Did the government have a stated policy document for the change into a cashless society or did it suddenly pop up on the go?
These are the six larger, important questions Gandhi should be asking prime minister Modi and the NDA-government, instead of dragging himself into deeper troubles with high-adrenaline, low-on-facts, allegations. Else, he is risking his own personal credibility and the chances of emerging as a serious political entity that can lead the opposition to the 2019 polls against a powerful political leader.
So far, it is mere noise.
Updated Date: Dec 15, 2016 12:57:06 IST