Opposition wants PM Modi to reply, Govt hopes to buy time for cash crunch to ease

Both Houses adjourned, Prime Minister likely to speak next week.

Written by Abantika Ghosh , Liz Mathew , Pradeep Kaushal | New Delhi | Updated: November 18, 2016 11:46 am
demonetisaton, parliament, demonetisation debate, narendra modi, modi missing parliament, opposition, congress, tmc, cash crunch, rs 500 ban, rs 1000 ban, no cash, no atm, no money, black money, farmer crisis, farmer money crisis, indian express news, india news, latest news The Lok Sabha also witnessed noisy disruptions, with the Opposition demanding a discussion under a rule that mandates voting.

WITH THE Opposition stepping up the heat against the demonetisation drive, leading to disruptions in both Houses of Parliament, the government prepared to weather the storm at least till the beginning of next week in the hope that the cash crunch caused by the withdrawal of old Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 notes would have somewhat eased by then.

Led by the Congress, the Opposition parties refused to allow Rajya Sabha to function unless Prime Minister Narendra Modi responds to their questions on the currency move that “has caused hardship to the common man”. The Lok Sabha also witnessed noisy disruptions, with the Opposition demanding a discussion under a rule that mandates voting.

WATCH VIDEO: Uproar In Parliament Over Demonetisation Debate: Here’s What Happened

The government, however, refused to make any commitment on whether the Prime Minister would speak on Friday; he stayed away from Rajya Sabha on Thursday even though it was the Prime Minister’s question day in the upper house.

Finance Minister Arun Jaitley said that the government would take a call on who would eventually respond to issues raised by the Opposition. Sources said the government may agree early next week to the Opposition’s demand in Rajya Sabha for Prime Minister Modi’s intervention in the debate and in Lok Sabha for an adjournment motion.

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Elaborating on the government strategy, sources said that its expectation was that the long queues outside banks and ATMs, which has started making BJP leaders nervous about the political cost of the demonetisation scheme, will ease over the weekend.

“With more currency being released, there should be some normalcy by Monday. Besides, the government has announced fresh measures like allowing withdrawal up to Rs 2.5 lakh for weddings and up to Rs 50,000 for farmers. These should provide relief to the common man,” a Union Minister told The Indian Express on condition of anonymity.

Sources in the Opposition said that the Congress is planning to put more pressure on the government, indicating that the party may work in tandem with other Opposition parties to keep shifting the goalposts and “expose the failure of the government”.

WATCH VIDEO: Finance Minister Arun Jaitley Rules Out Roll Back Of Demonetisation Move

In Rajya Sabha Thursday, the Opposition forced four adjournments in the first half, which included a remark on the Prime Minister by TMC MP Derek O’Brien, which was later expunged, and demands from AIADMK members for the setting up of a Cauvery Management Board to resolve the water dispute.

The Treasury benches rose to counter the Opposition, with the mention of the Prime Minister bringing Urban Development Minister M Venkaiah Naidu, Social Justice Minister Thavar Chand Gehlot and Minister of State for Commerce Nirmala Sitharaman to their feet.

But their voices were drowned out by Opposition members who reached the well of the House, with Congress MPs shouting “Pradhan Mantri, jawab do (Prime Minister, give a reply)”.

Deputy Chairman P J Kurien stepped in to say that “if the Finance Minister is available, that is enough” and expunged certain references to the Prime Minister made by some Opposition members.

Naidu and Leader of the Opposition Ghulam Nabi Azad also engaged in a heated exchange over the Congress leader’s remarks, which were later expunged.

Later, speaking to reporters, Azad asked the BJP to apologise to the nation for heaping hardships caused because of its “ill-prepared decision” to withdraw the notes.

“BJP should apologise to the nation and especially the farmers, workers and employees, small traders many of whom are without food and ration for the last one week. Daily wagers are not getting their wages… At least 43 people have died so far. In the history of independent India, no other government or prime minister’s announcement has caused such pain and hardship to the people and led to so many deaths,” he said.

Azad also accused the government and BJP of seeking to tar those who question it as “anti-nationals”. “Whenever we seek answers from this government… the BJP says if a Hindu is asking questions, he is anti-national, and if a Muslim poses a question, he is labelled a Pakistani,” he said.

WATCH VIDEO: West Bengal CM Mamata Banerjee, Delhi CM Arvind Kejriwal Protest Against Demonetisation

In the evening, senior ministers Venkaiah Naidu, Ananth Kumar, Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi and Prakash Javadekar, held a meeting and decided to attack the Congress for “comparing terrorism with the effect of demonetisation”. Sources said the BJP would insist on an unconditional apology from Azad for his remarks to this effect in the House, which were later expunged. BJP strategists said this would be an effective offensive against the Opposition and appeal to nationalist sentiments.

In the House, earlier, Parliamentary Affairs Minister Kumar tried to make a statement following the exchange between Naidu and Azad, but could not be heard in the din — soon, Kurien adjourned the House.

In the Lok Sabha, Speaker Sumitra Mahajan managed to conduct Question Hour amid slogan-shouting by Opposition MPs, but adjourned the House for the day a little after noon. Kumar offered to conduct a discussion but made it clear that it would have to be under Rule 193, which does not provide for voting later.

The Congress and TMC MPs, however, insisted that their adjournment motion under Rule 56 be accepted, for a debate with voting. When the government refused to budge, MPs from the Congress, TMC, NCP, SP, JD-U, RJD and the Left parties reached the well of the House and stated shouting slogans.

TMC MP Sudip Bandyopadhyay later told reporters that his party would not participate in any discussion in the Lok Sabha until the Speaker admitted the adjournment motion.

Meanwhile, a senior BJP leader admitted that pictures of long queues outside banks and ATMs, as well as reports of demonetisation-related deaths, have disturbed party strategists and the government.

“If things do not come under control within 48 hours, people will start losing their patience and it would be bad news for the party,” said the leader.

“But the measures taken by the government should ease the pressure and the queues should reduce or disappear soon. This would place the government in a better position to defend itself and promote the move in Parliament,” he said.

On the Opposition’s demand for the Prime Minister’s participation in the Parliament debate, a senior BJP leader said, “We are quite confident that the Prime Minister can speak and he will remove many apprehensions, too. But we need to see a better atmosphere outside the House.”

On the issue of NDA allies, such as Shiv Sena and Shiromani Akali Dal (Badal), not being on the same page on the issue, the BJP leader said that Home Minister Rajnath Singh has had a chat with Shiv Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray on the issue, which has improved the situation.

Thackeray is expected to meet Singh in Delhi on Friday morning. “The party will ensure that the government has the full backing of the NDA allies before we face a debate in Parliament,” said the leader.

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First Published on: November 18, 2016 4:28 am
  1. A
    Anil
    Nov 18, 2016 at 4:00 am
    Well, let truth be told. Modi did take huge donations, unjust favors from corporate houses like Ambanis and Adanis. And guess who has the biggest black money case under investigation? Adanis.
    Reply
    1. E
      Earthkeeper
      Nov 18, 2016 at 1:04 am
      He is in shock . His masterstroke gone wrong . His advisors are bunch of s . His defeat in upcoming elections is more then certain. He might have covered up things by threatening media not to say anything against him but people are angry ..... very very angry . ....
      Reply
      1. K
        Kt govindan
        Nov 18, 2016 at 8:59 am
        Be patient and encourage the people to go through this difficult cituation .the step taken by the govt is very much in right direction. In stead of fueling panic the opposition also please come forward to help nation to overcome this cituation.you cant do it then please dont mislead the people.
        Reply
        1. M
          MyTake
          Nov 18, 2016 at 2:43 am
          Thanks to the son of the soil, this year it has been the real dhusserah for the hard working people and enjoy the "bonfire"!
          Reply
          1. R
            Raghu
            Nov 18, 2016 at 3:07 am
            None of BJP guys have expressed any remorse for the deaths of innocents. Life to them has not much significance.
            Reply
            1. A
              Anand
              Nov 18, 2016 at 4:37 am
              Middle cl as of now seems to have been a little positive about the move. It has just been pinching the poor. Continue this for another 10 days and you will see frustration in middle cl.
              Reply
              1. A
                Aneek
                Nov 18, 2016 at 2:55 am
                Why and how Demonetisation and ban on Rs. 500 and Rs. 1000 failing. There are news that those with Black Money are using bank employees influence or bribing them to change their currency in huge amount. Employers giving their employees to desposits into their accounts. Jan Dhan Yojna account being used for depositing black money. Pradhans and BJP local and state politicians helping businesses and traders to change their money in return for upcoming UP, Punjab, Gujarat and Uttaranchal elections.
                Reply
                1. A
                  avd
                  Nov 18, 2016 at 5:26 am
                  Let us not blame Rajya Sabha MPs for their chaos in house.After all they are not directly elected like Lok Sabha MP. They are nominated by Party.Therefore they are not answerable to people.To remain in limelight they have to do something noisy to attract public which they do in all sessions of house.That is why even good bills which are in the interest of nation are blocked like GST Bill and many other bills.Due to this obstruction nature RS has no voice in Money bill if it is not ped by house then it is just ignored and taken as ped by RS.
                  Reply
                  1. A
                    ashok s
                    Nov 18, 2016 at 1:36 am
                    Its clear builders, jewellers etc got back door entries. As per demonetization law you can deposits a certain amount in your account and withdrew certain amount but this rule was not applicable to big sharks. Now will RBI, vigilance check pls
                    Reply
                    1. A
                      ashok s
                      Nov 18, 2016 at 3:41 am
                      I want to know when real estates , gold prices were going up then govt didn't take any action . when their activities ate on standstill and they have limited black money at hands ,govt took this so called harsh action
                      Reply
                      1. A
                        Ashwani
                        Nov 18, 2016 at 9:50 am
                        Big industrial houses near Modi are spared. Those considered close to opposition are being raised by IT sleuths.
                        Reply
                        1. A
                          Ashwani
                          Nov 18, 2016 at 9:47 am
                          He is hidden in sar ee of Smriti.
                          Reply
                          1. A
                            ashish
                            Nov 18, 2016 at 6:53 am
                            We r ready to take this trouble happily for greater good.Modi has given us hope.. Lets try it out.Don't just go hating demonetisation just because u hate one person or party.Rise above and be a part.
                            Reply
                            1. A
                              A A
                              Nov 18, 2016 at 9:43 am
                              Uss ki fu t he yee hai.
                              Reply
                              1. A
                                Ankur Gupta
                                Nov 18, 2016 at 6:32 am
                                As usual.
                                Reply
                                1. A
                                  Ankur Gupta
                                  Nov 18, 2016 at 6:23 am
                                  BJP has many 36 inch chest too.
                                  Reply
                                  1. A
                                    Ankur Gupta
                                    Nov 18, 2016 at 6:30 am
                                    Big industrialists do not usually carry cash. Black money us invested somewhere else or in Swiss Banks. Demonitizing does not affect them.
                                    Reply
                                    1. A
                                      Ankur Gupta
                                      Nov 18, 2016 at 6:20 am
                                      Modi is master at keeping people distracted from his failures. Demonitizing is such an issue. His supporters believe that shouting loud in unison with fake names will keep him floating. They are mistaken.
                                      Reply
                                      1. D
                                        Dash
                                        Nov 18, 2016 at 7:43 am
                                        The emlires of corrupt politicians has been shattered;looted money has become paper. Their frustration js understandabke but stalling Parliament is disgusting. Let the house debate,let good suggestions come but it won't happen at least now. Naxals,jihadis,drug peddlers,pimps are runnong helter skelter and along with them aninational selfish politicians like Khujliwaal Bombta Bano,dynast Uddhav,Pappu etc.
                                        Reply
                                        1. D
                                          Dash
                                          Nov 18, 2016 at 7:44 am
                                          The empires of corrupt politicians have been shattered;looted money has become paper. Their frustration js understandabke but stalling Parliament is disgusting. Let the house debate,let good suggestions come but it won't happen at least now. Naxals,jihadis,drug peddlers,pimps are runnong helter skelter and along with them aninational selfish politicians like Khujliwaal Bombta Bano,dynast Uddhav,Pappu etc
                                          Reply
                                          1. P
                                            PN badri
                                            Nov 19, 2016 at 9:39 am
                                            PM shirking responsibility by not answering to opposition parties in the august house shows he accept the so called demonetisation scheme produce little benefits compared to immense colateral damages. Cash crunch will plague for another 2quarters. Economic activity standstill is worry some.
                                            Reply
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