Cong hits out at Modi govt on third anniversary of demonetisation

Sanjeev Chopra

New Delhi, Nov 8 (PTI) The Congress on Friday attacked the Modi government on the third anniversary of demonetisation, with party chief Sonia Gandhi holding it responsible for taking away livelihoods, saying that her party will ensure the nation never forgets or forgives the 'Tughlaqi blunder'.

Former party chief Rahul Gandhi termed noteban a 'terror attack' that 'devastated' the economy and 'took many lives', while the party likened the decision to that taken by Muhammed Bin Tughlaq, the 14th century sultan of Delhi, saying he rendered currency useless in 1330.

The party also questioned the 'silence' of those in power on the third anniversary of demonetisation. Youth Congress activists staged a demonstration outside Reserve Bank of India office here, slamming the Modi government for implementing demonetisation.

On November 8, 2016, Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced that Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 currency notes would cease to be legal tender.

Sonia Gandhi said the prime minister and his colleagues have never taken responsibility for the 'faux pas' that claimed over 120 lives and proved a death knell for India's medium and small businesses.

'No matter how much the Modi government may try to evade responsibility for this ludicrous and short-sighted measure, the nation and its people will ensure that they are held accountable,' Gandhi said in a statement.

'The prime minister and his colleagues have stopped speaking about demonetisation since 2017, hoping that the nation will forget. Unfortunately for them, the Congress will ensure that neither the nation, nor history, forgives or forgets. Because unlike the BJP, we serve in the 'national interest',' she added.

The Congress leader said that three years on, demonetisation is perhaps the single most appropriate metaphor for the BJP's 'ill-conceived governance model'.

'It was a preposterous measure fuelled by false propaganda which did untold damage to innocent and trusting countrymen. This, in a nutshell, is a summary of the Modi government's approach to governance,' she said.

'Yet, despite all the empty rhetoric about holding himself accountable, the prime minister and his colleagues never once took responsibility for - or even acknowledged - this faux pas that claimed over a 120 lives (by a conservative estimate), proved a death knell for India's medium and small businesses, snatched the livelihoods of India's farmers and reduced millions of families to the very margins of poverty,' she claimed.

Former finance minister P Chidambaram said that it cost the country at least five per cent of GDP in the last three years. 'Five per cent of GDP roughly equals several thousand lakh crores of rupees of output. Should the country send a bill to the BJP for that amount,' he questioned.

In a scathing attack on the government, Rahul Gandhi said it had been three years since the demonetisation 'terror attack' that devastated the Indian economy, taking many lives, wiping out lakhs of small businesses and leaving millions of Indians unemployed.

Those behind this 'vicious attack' are yet to be brought to justice, the former Congress president tweeted, using the hashtag 'DeMonetisation Disaster'.

Congress general secretary Priyanka Gandhi Vadra said the move proved to be a 'disaster' that all but destroyed the economy.

'Three years since demonetisation and every claim made by the government and those hailing it as a slayer of all evils has been turned on its head. It proved to be a disaster that has all but destroyed our economy,' she said in a tweet, asking if anyone wanted to take responsibility for it.

Congress' chief spokesperson Randeep Surjewala also hit out at the prime minister for the demonetisation move, describing him as 'today's Tughlaq'.

'Sultan Muhammad bin Tughlaq rendered the country's currency useless in the year 1330. Today's Tughlaq did the same on November 8, 2016,' he said in a tweet.

'Three years have passed and the country is suffering because economy collapsed, employment lost. Neither terrorism stopped, nor the business of fake notes,' he said.

Congress senior spokesperson Ajay Maken said the government kept changing goalposts over why it introduced noteban. He recalled the words of former prime minister Manmohan Singh who had termed it an organised loot and legalised plunder and had said that it would hit the GDP by two per cent.

Maken claimed that after noteban, black money has increased by 18 times and fake currency by five times, even as there has been an increase in terrorist and naxal activities. Besides, savings rate has fallen to 30 per cent from 34 per cent, contrary to claims that it would increase savings, he claimed.

Sonia Gandhi recalled that on November 8, 2016, Modi had promised the nation to wipe out black money, eliminate fake currency and purge terrorism and naxalism.

'Three years later, Prime Minister Modi has failed spectacularly on all these counts,' she said.

Terror and naxal activities have actually seen an increase after demonetisation as per the government's own published data and the currency in circulation has seen a 22 per cent increase over pre-demonetisation level, she noted.

'The simple question being asked by every Indian is 'what did the demonetisation achieve',' Sonia Gandhi asked. PTI SKC ASK AAR