As a former prime minister, how do you respond to Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s view that demonetisation is a cure to a 70-year-old corruption disease?
You cannot make a sweeping allegation like that. He is the prime minister of the country. Does it mean the rule of the Atal Bihari Vajpayee government and that of Lal Bahadur Shastri were corrupt? I too was prime minister for a year. Can he prove one case of corruption in my time? Can anyone say Shastri and Nehru led a corrupt government?
Are you against demonetisation?
No Opposition party is against steps to check black money but you have to look at the distress that has been caused to farmers and the poor due to this decision… To print all the notes, it will take at least six months. It’s a hasty decision taken without understanding the implications.
If no party is against it, why stall Parliament?
After the announcement on November 8, the prime minister should have come to Parliament after the winter session started on November 16; he should have made a suo motu statement the very first day. Why is the prime minister, whose government has a huge majority, giving room for disruption? This kind of confrontation will be damaging to the parliamentary system. Why is the prime minister attacking all parties?
But isn’t the Opposition protest divided?
I totally agree. The Congress being the largest Opposition party could have taken the effort to bring all parties together. Leader of the Opposition Ghulam Nabi Azad in Rajya Sabha and the leader of the Congress in Lok Sabha could have coordinated it.
Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar and his party skipped the Opposition’s Aakrosh Divas.
I don’t want to comment on it. I remember he was projected as a probable future PM candidate of the Opposition. Now I don’t know. I do agree that such incidents have happened even in the past. After the Gujarat riots, Chandrababu Naidu was forced to say then prime minister Vajpayee should dislodge the then Modi government in the state. Now the Modi government at the Centre has decided to appoint Naidu as convener of the committee of chief ministers to suggest ways for implementation of the cashless economy plan.
With such fault-lines, do you still see Opposition parties coming together?
The CPM and the Trinamool Congress were so bitter but are now moving forward inside and outside the House. A day will come if things go on like this, there will be no alternative but for all regional parties to come together… A third front may not emerge immediately but when arch-rivals CPM and Trinamool are moving forward, why can other parties not come together?