Demonetisation: Tough Week Ahead for PM As Opposition Launches Protests
NEW DELHI: Prime Minister Narendra Modi has become the single point of the government campaign in support of demonetisation becoming increasinglly defensive as 20 days have shown little sign of the chaos abating. The next week is going to raise the pitch with the Opposition now moving for a series of protests across the country.
Parliament over the last ten days has seen the emergence of a broad rainbow coalition, with all the Opposition parties sinking well known differences to take the government by the horns. PM Modi has been made the target of the Opposition attack, with Rajya Sabha repeatedly adjourned, until he conceded to the Opposition demand to be present in the House for the discussion on demonetisation.
Opposition MPs were castigating in their comments, particularly Trinamool Congress MP Derek O Brien mincing no words about the move that has plunged the nation into chaos. PM Modi did not appear in the House after lunch, whereupon the Opposition again stalled the proceedings demanding the physical presence of the PM who is being held directly responsible for the move.
Except for a few Ministers, like Venkiah Naidu and Arun Jaitley who are speaking on the issue, the Council of Ministers is largely silent as clearly the campaign after the move is being tightly controlled by the Prime Minister. He has become almost the sole voice on the issue, with others of the ruling party maintaining a grim silence and not even thumping the desks with the usual abandon witnessed in Parliament when the opposition and treasury benches are oft in a logjam.
On Sunday PM Modi used his radio Mann ki Baat to advocate a cash-less society, and assured the youth in particular that it “is no more difficult than WhatsApp.” He did not of course, speak about the abysmal internet connections across the country, and the poverty that keeps the majority of young people without bank accounts, let alone access to the internet. A young cab driver in Delhi shook his head when asked about the Prime Ministers comments by The Citizen reporter with, “where is the internet for me sir? I am just earning enough to support my family in the village, where even today we hardly get electricity.”
The Opposition is preparing for a major nation wide bandh and this became the issue for the Prime Minister at an election rally in Kushinagar in Uttar Pradesh. His argument in favour of demonetisation rested on an attack on the Opposition where he asked the crowd repeatedly whether they wanted to shut down corruption, or shut down the nation.
Questions are being asked openly by Opposition MPs in Central Hall of Parliament as to who took the decision to demonetise. Was a Cabinet meeting held before the Prime Ministers announcement? Was a Cabinet note prepared, as per procedure? Did the RBI Board meet, if so were the minutes prepared? There are no answers to even procedural questions that are important as procedure forms the check and balance in a democracy. In the complete gag on the Council of Ministers, most are not even willing to hazard a guess, and as Opposition leaders laughed, “walk away quietly with an excuse as soon as the issue of demonetisation comes up” in conversation.
PM Modi in his mann ki baat, and the UP rally has attacked the Opposition for its protests, continuing to insist that the crisis will be resolved in 50 days. However, there have been no answers from officials or senior Ministers, or the PM of course, to the many questions being raised by economists and the MPs about the crisis. The very fact that 86 per cent of the currency has been demonetised forms the basis of the concerns, with the cashless economy being advocated now by the PM set to strike at the very heart of small business in the country.
"You can also easily learn how to run business, transact money through your phone, without the need of any cash," he said. "Technology has advanced so much that one does not need to carry a wallet, but just your phone. Your phone has turned into your bank branch". Bahujan Samaj party leader Mayawati responded later by pointing out that 90 per cent of the people have been adversely impacted. Trinamool Congress leader Mamata Banerjee who has been almost fierce in her opposition said, “Mann ki Baat has now become "Modi ki Baat," Ms Banerjee said in a statement. "Instead of finding solutions to the suffering and pain of millions, he is doing personal vendetta, personal publicity and business."