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Modi justifies note ban, blasts Congress

New Delhi, Feb 7: Speaking on demonetisation in Parliament for the first time, Prime Minister rendra Modi on Tuesday justified the November 8 move, saying it was made at the right time, but he did not make any comment on the deaths caused by the note ban despite opposition members raising the issue.

The Prime Minister was replying to a debate on Motion of Thanks to the President’s Address in the Lok Sabha.

The Motion was later passed by voice vote in the Lower House, even as opposition Congress and CPI-M staged a walk out. The opposition members were protesting as Union Minister Mahesh Sharma, and the seconder BJP MP Virendra Singh Mast — both were missing from the House when the motion was to be passed.

Congress leader Jyotiraditya Scindia had also sought a division when he moved an amendment that sought mentioning of the 125 deaths due to demonetisation. “125 people have died, I want a division,” Scindia said.

Speaker Sumitra Mahajan however said she could not hear what the opposition members were saying, leading to the walk out.

The Prime Minister meanwhile launched an all out attack on the opposition Congress, and had the Nehru-Gandhi family in his target, stating that the Congress has attributed everything to one family.

In defence of demonetisation — an issue that led to wash-out of the Winter Session of Parliament, and was criticised by all opposition parties, and even government ally Shiv Se during the debate on the Motion of Thanks — the Prime Minister called it a “clean India” mission for the economy. He however made no reference to the deaths that occurred due to banning of Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 notes.

He likened the decision with surgery conducted on the human body. “When can you have an operation? When the body is healthy. For demonetisation, good economy was needed and this was a proper time. Our economy was doing well and our (demonetisation) decision was taken at the right time,” Modi said.

“The move was calculative. The decision was taken after Diwali when trade (across the country) was high,” he said, adding the move was like the Swachh Bharat mission to clean the economy of ill-gotten wealth accumulated by evading tax. “Like Swachh Bharat, the decision on demonetisation is amovement to clean India (of corruption and black money),” Modi said.

He said he was aware of political risks but “I am not concerned about the elections”. “I am concerned about my country,” he said, urging the Opposition “to join the mainstream and contribute in the development of the country.”

Justifying the several changes in regulations post demonetisation, the Prime Minister said they had to change rules to ensure less trouble for the common people, as well as to stop those with black money from getting out of the net.

He said when the Congress was in power the question the opposition used to ask was how much money was lost due to scams. “…Now people ask how much has Modi brought back. This is how discourse has changed after we have assumed office.” he said.

Opposition members time to time accused the Prime Minister of being “dramatic” and also commenting that he should get an ‘Oscar’ for his performance.

The Prime Minister also replied to Congress leader Mallikarjun Kharge’s Monday remark that Modi could become the Prime Minister only because the Congress had protected democracy for 70 years.

“The Congress said democracy is there because of them; they said they protected democracy and did a favour to the country. But everyone knows democracy has been sacrificed for a family,” Modi said.

He referred to the Emergency imposed by the then Indira Gandhi government in 1975, in response to which the opposition members quipped that there was an “undeclared Emergency” at present.

“They (Congress) did not know the power of the people. It was because of the people that democracy was reinstated. It is because of the people that a poor mother’s son could become the Prime Minister of India,” Modi said.

The Prime Minister also said the Congress always claims that the government of the day is repackaging their schemes. “I will play in your court today,” the Prime Minister quipped, and questioned why the Congress, despite starting several schemes, did not take any of them to logical conclusions.

He also justified merging the Railway budget with the General budget, and assured that Railway’s autonomy will not be affected. He said that advancement of the General Budget will result in timely disbursal of money to suit agriculture which depends on the Monsoon.

The Lok Sabha sat till 9.30 p.m. on Monday to debate the Motion of Thanks. The debate continues in the Upper House and the Prime Minister is likely to reply to it on Wednesday.

With the opposition having more members in the Upper House, a number of amendments that have been moved by opposition leaders may get passed. The government has been embarrassed consecutively for the last two years in the Upper House with opposition members teaming up and getting the Motion of Thanks amended. (IANS)