Accusing Congress of putting its interests above the country’s, Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Friday tore into the Oppposition, saying unlike earlier when opposition parties stalled Parliament against scams, Congress-led parties are now doing so against government’s steps to curb black money and corruption.
He also targeted the Left, accusing them of compromising with their ideology as he recalled comments of late communist leaders Jyotirmay Basu and Harkishan Singh Surjeet in support of demonetisation to hit out at them for siding with Congress.
With the Winter Session turning out be a virtual washout following political impasse over demonetisation, Modi projected criticism of the decision by rival parties as an evidence of their support for the “dishonest and corrupt”.
In his address at the BJP Parliamentary Party meeting, he also attacked former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, who had called demonetisation “organised plunder and legalised loot”.
Modi quoted his comments made in 1991 to say that he once used “language of threat” against tax evaders but his voice has completely changed now. “Why? Because he is worried about his party not country,” Modi said of Singh.
The Prime Minister also cited the Supreme Court’s observations against the UPA government over lack of action against black money to make his point.
“In our country, ruckus in Parliament or not letting it function had happened earlier too. It was a little longer this time. But there is an essential difference. Earlier, ruckus and disruptions happened because of massive scams and graft and the opposition would unite and fight on the principle of honesty.
“This is the first time when treasury benches have taken a step against corruption and many in the Opposition have come together to support the dishonest,” he said.
Political values have fallen so much that Opposition parties are brazenly speaking in favour of the dishonest, something that used to be done earlier secretively, he said.
Amid reports that continuing hardships faced by the masses in withdrawing money from banks and ATMs have dented the early public support for the measure, Modi told party leaders that they have to fight to rid the country of corruption and black money with confidence.
He asked them to popularise the government’s thrust on digital transactions as a “way of life”, saying those who are aware of the exercise should be made to use it.
Noting that the Wanchoo Committee in 1971 had recommended demonetisation, he cited a book to say that when the then Finance Minister Y B Chavan went to Prime Minister Indira Gandhi and supported the exercise, she asked, “Only one question. Are no elections to be fought by the Congress party?”
“We needed to do it in 1971. We have caused huge losses by not doing this since 1971,” he said.
“Tell me,” Modi wondered, “if the party is bigger or the country,” as he accused Congress of putting its interests before the country’s. BJP puts the country’s interests before the party’s, he said.
Painting Congress as a votary of corruption, he said it had made a law against benami assets in 1988 but never notified it or framed rules and regulations, ensuring that the legislation never came into force.
Though Congress followed by the Left were at the receiving end of his scathing attack, the Prime Minister made few references to regional parties like SP, BSP and TMC which have been targeting him over the decision.
Lamenting the lack of debate in Parliament, Modi said it would be good had the government’s critics shown strength to start a discussion on merit.
He also expressed gratitude to Odisha and Bihar chief ministers Navin Patnaik and Nitish Kumar for their “open support” to the demonetisation decision despite their ideological differences with BJP.