WITH reports of distress coming in from villages and small towns and anger boiling over the cash crunch, West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee and Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal shared the stage Thursday warning of an unrest if the demonetisation exercise was not rolled back within three days.
Raising the pitch against demonetisation, Kejriwal and Banerjee said the current “economic instability” was unprecedented, “not seen even during Emergency.”
Addressing traders at Azadpur wholesale fruit and vegetable market, the biggest such trading centre in the capital, Kejriwal described the demonetisation of Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 notes as the “biggest scam” in independent India while his West Bengal counterpart said that Prime Minister Narendra Modi should not run the country like a “dictator” calling their protest a fight to save the country.
“AAP is a party born out of an anti-corruption movement and I have put my life at stake in this fight. If the Centre takes any real step to stop the flow of black money, we will be the first to support such a move. Be it Swachh Bharat or Yoga Day, we backed Modiji,” Kejriwal said.
“By introducing Rs 2,000 notes you have made it much easier for black money hoarders. I have also worked in the Income Tax Department, I understand how the system works. Yesterday, a Gujarat government officer was caught taking a bribe of Rs 3 lakh in fresh bundles of Rs 2,000-notes. If all of us are getting only Rs 2,000 each at ATMs every day, how did this person have access to so many bundles of cash? The black market for Rs 2,000 notes is rampant with commission rates as high as 40 percent for exchange. No rich people are lining up outside banks because Rs 2,000 notes are being home delivered to them. This is the biggest scam in the history of Independent India, worth Rs 8 lakh crore.”
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The Delhi Chief Minister alleged a plot to favour defaulting corporates. “Modiji has waived off loans of Rs 1.14 lakh crore from all of India’s big industrialists. One such person is liquor baron Vijay Mallya, who had a massive loan of Rs 8,000 crore. Instead of bringing him to book, Modiji packed him out of the country… while he is living a lavish lifestyle in London, we are lining up to withdraw our own money,” Kejriwal said.
Banerjee attacked the Prime Minister and ridiculed the argument that people should use plastic money, saying only 4 per cent of the people in India use cards for transactions. Challenging the government to take action against her, she said: “I am not scared. I will continue my fight. If you have courage, put me in jail, shoot me…There are no vegetables in the market. Will people eat diamonds or ATM machines?” Banerjee told the gathering.
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“After withdrawing money you put a black mark on the finger. Haath mein kaali laga do, tumhare muh mein kaali hai. You mistrust the people so much. Aam janata ko kya sochte ho? Hum log chor hai? Sab chor aur sirf tum sadhu sant ho?,” she said.
Responding to the move permitting a withdrawal of Rs 2.5 lakh for weddings, Kejriwal said: “Janardhan Reddy, a former BJP Minister, who has been named in several scams, spent Rs 500 crore on his daughter’s wedding this week in Bengaluru, at a time when lakhs of weddings are being cancelled after this severe cash crunch and fathers are committing suicide, dying of heart attacks. Who gave him Rs 2,000 notes? Who exchanged his notes? Woh toh line mein nahi khada hua. Sarkar ne kaha shaadi ka card le aao Rs 2.5 lakh de denge. itne mein shaadi hoti hai? Kya Arun Jaitley ne apni beti ki shaadi Rs 2.5 lakh mein kari thi kya? Tum apni beti ki shaadi mein kharch karo Rs 500 crore, aur hum kare Rs 2.5 lakh mein?” asked Kejriwal. “Why did IT not conduct raids at his house? All BJP leaders attended the wedding. We are the only fools. Humein bewakoof mat banao ki line mein khade hona deshbhakti hai. Forty people have died. Who is responsible for these deaths?”
Banerjee rejected the demand by some Opposition parties to set up a Joint Parliamentary Committee to probe demonetisation, saying such committees did not yield any result.
Even as AAP had maintained that the rally would be organized by traders, farmers and labourers, AAP volunteers took charge of the rally. A section of the sprawling marketplace was shut down for the rally while there was business as usual in the rest. Several traders and daily wagers said that the demonetisation had hurt their income in the last three days but had normalised by now. A few traders said they were still accepting old currency notes to avoid a slump in their sales while others said supply trucks were stuck at entry points to the Capital.
The BJP slammed Banerjee and Kejriwal. “A surgical strike against black money has occurred and a few people pained. Kejriwal and Banerjee are among them. They should not cross the ‘laxman rekha’ in their overzealous criticism of Modi,” BJP National Secretary Shrikant Sharma said.
Targeting Kejriwal, he accused the “disciple” of anti-corruption crusader Anna Hazare of “cheating and insulting” the people of Delhi. He alleged that Banerjee did nothing when her own party leaders were accused in the Saradha scam which hit the poor people very hard in her state.