New Delhi, Aug 30: Congress chief Rahul Gandhi and Finance Minister Arun Jaitley were locked in a verbal duel over the demonetisation issue with the opposition leader alleging it was a "huge scam" to help Prime Minister Narendra Modi's "crony capitalist friends" and the senior BJP leader hitting back saying his "little knowledge is dangerous".
Soon after Gandhi addressed a press conference, other BJP leaders also accused the Congress president of being a "non-serious political player", saying he had nothing new to offer and was parroting the same charges. Gandhi alleged the demonetisation was a "huge scam" deliberately inflicted by the prime minister on common people to snatch their money and give it to his "crony capitalist friends".
A day after the Reserve Bank in its annual report said 99.3 per cent of the junked notes returned to the banking system, Gandhi said the note ban decision was not a mistake but an assault on the common man and the prime minister owes an answer to the country on why he did so.
Hitting back at Gandhi, Jaitley said, "Little knowledge is dangerous. Rahul Gandhi's fiction on 'demonetisation helping NPA holders', forgets that the Modi Government legislated and enforced the IBC where the NPA defaulters lost their companies." IBC is the Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code that calls for auctioning off the assets of serial loan defaulters. NPAs or non-performing assets refer to bad loans.
Earlier in the day, Jaitley in a Facebook blog said invalidation of non-deposited currency notes was not the only object behind the November 8, 2016 decision to junk Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 notes. "The larger purpose of demonetisation was to move India from a tax non-compliant society to a compliant society. This necessarily involved the formalisation of the economy and a blow to the black money," he wrote.
At his press conference, Gandhi said, "Note ban is nothing less than a huge scam and evidence is slowly coming out." "You apologise when you make a mistake. Demonetisation was not a mistake, but done deliberately by the prime minister as a well thought-out attack on you (the people of India) with the intention of helping his 15-20 crony capitalist friends," he alleged.
"His (prime minister's) aim was to help big crony capitalists who have marketed him, by handing over the money snatched from the pockets of common people," Gandhi told reporters when asked if the prime minister should apologise for the note ban decision. "Prime Minister Modi should answer why he inflicted the deep wound like demonetisation when issues like unemployment and low GDP rate remained," the Congress president said while referring to the RBI's report on the outcome of the demonetisation exercise.
BJP spokesperson Sambit Patra took on the Congress president saying, "It was like a 'parrot pattern press conference' repeating the same allegations." Patra cited the BJP's massive win in the the Uttar Pradesh assembly poll, which was held in February-March last year following demonetisation decision in November 2016, and subsequent elections to claim people's support to the measure. At a press conference, he alleged the Gandhi family has been crying "tears of blood" over the move to declare Rs 500 and Rs 1000 currency notes invalid because the money it had "looted" from people and kept in its residence turned into worthless papers overnight.
Patra alleged Gandhi continues to have same scriptwriter despite people's rejection of his charges. Gandhi is a "non-serious political player" who has nothing new to offer and has been parroting the same charges, Patra said. On Gandhi's allegation that the Modi government worked to benefit 15-20 industrialists, he said the Congress leader should answer as to how many of them turned richer after it came to power in 2014.
"Look at his maturity, though, he has aspirations to be prime minister," the BJP leader said. Jaitley said the larger purpose of demonetisation was to transform India from a tax non-compliant society into a compliant one, and invalidation of non-deposited currency was not its only objective. Banks received Rs 15.31 lakh crore or 99.3 per cent of the Rs 15.41 lakh crore worth of junked Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 notes that were in circulation on November 8, 2016 -- the day when the note ban was announced, according to the RBI.
Jaitley said when cash is deposited in banks, it loses anonymity and can be identified with its owner. "Accordingly, post demonetisation about 1.8 million depositors have been identified for this enquiry. Many of them are being fastened with tax and penalties. Mere deposit of cash in a bank does not lead to a presumption that it is tax paid money," he said.
The Congress chief said the note ban had no positive results and the prime minister has "to answer the country and to the youth who are suffering from unemployment, as to why you inflicted such a wound on the country. What was the reason and logic behind it." He alleged the prime minister took the decision to help his big industrialists friends convert their black money and those who had a lot of NPAs on them.