Modi, opposition slug it out over demonetisation outside Parliament (Roundup)

New Delhi, Dec 16 (IANS) While the stand-off between the opposition and the government over demonetisation led to a washout of the entire winter session of Parliament that ended on Friday, Prime Minister Narendra Modi and opposition parties had a go at each other on the matter.

As Modi strongly defended demonetisation and flayed the Congress and the Left parties for their hostility against the move, a section of the opposition approached President Pranab Mukherjee accusing the government of subjecting parliamentary democracy to a “severe threat”.

Modi, who did not speak on the issue during the entire winter session of Parliament, while addressing the BJP parliamentary party meeting asserted that the demonetisation should have been done in 1971 itself and blamed then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi for not acting on the suggestion to demonetise currency notes to curb black money.

“We did something (demonetisation) now which needed to be done in 1971. We can only count the losses the country has suffered due to this delay,” said Modi referring to the Wanchoo Committee report that recommended demonetisation in 1971.

Targeting the Congress and the Left parties, he recalled remarks by Communist veterans Jyotirmoy Basu and Harkishan Singh Surjeet supporting the demonetisation recommendation in 1971.

“Indira Gandhi survives on black money, her politics survives on black money, therefore the report was not only not implemented but was suppressed for a year-and-half,” Modi said quoting Communist Party of India-Marxist MP Basu’s 1971 speech in Parliament.

He also referred to former bureaucrat Madhav Godbole’s book, in which he has recorded how the then Home Minister Y.B. Chavan had recommended demonetisation to curb ill-gotten and hidden wealth.

Continuing the attack, Modi accused the Congress of putting party interest above the country and slammed the CPI-M for compromising with their ideology.

“Disruptions in Parliament have happened earlier also, but this time it is different. Unlike earlier, when opposition unitedly fought against scams and corruption, most of the opposition parties are coming together to stand beside the corrupt,” he said.

“On this day in 1971 our brave soldiers made Pakistan to surrender. There was a robust opposition then, but nobody asked for any evidence.”

“But today some of the opposition parties compel our brave soldiers to give evidence of their valour. Such is the decline in standards,” he said referring to some of the opposition demanding proof of thed Indian Army’s surgical strike across the LoC.

Meanwhile, a host of opposition leaders, including former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Congress President Sonia Gandhi, submitted a memorandum to Mukherjee charging the government with stifling the opposition’s voice and subjecting parliamentary democracy to a “severe threat”.

Apprising Mukherjee of the plight of the masses due to demonetisation, the leaders accused the government of “deliberately disrupting and forcing adjournments of both Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha”, which they said was “unprecedented”.

They also expressed shock over Modi’s refusal to make a statement on the “draconian” demonetisation decision and sought Mukherjee’s intervention.

While leaders of the Trinamool Congress, Rashtriya Janata Dal, Janata Dal-United and some other parties joined the Congress-led delegation, the Left parties, Samajwadi Party and the Bahujan Samaj Party stayed away.

Defending the decision to skip the meeting, CPI-M General Secretary Sitaram Yechury said the President “had no role to play in the matter” and advocated taking the matter to the masses.

The Congress on the day also hit back hard at Modi over his barbs and asked him to go through history first to know who puts the party before the nation.

“Modi should read the (Indian) history and the history of his own party; then he’ll get to know whose leaders sided with the British,” Congress leader Kapil Sibal said.

He also said if Modi wanted to fight black money, he should start from his own BJP.