Govt did best it could, people with us: Commerce Minister Nirmala Sitharaman

With the BJP facing flak on demonetisation both inside Parliament and outside, Prime Minister Narendra Modi asked all party MPs to publicise the positive aspects of demonetisation.

Written by Abantika Ghosh | New Delhi | Updated: November 24, 2016 1:45 pm
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Conceding that people are facing inconvenience due to the decision to demonetise higher value currencies, BJP on Saturday cited “support from the people” to justify the move. The government, said Commerce Minister Nirmala Sitharaman, made the best preparation it could have under the circumstances.

“Government is conscious of the inconvenience. We are not panicking, but we are alert, with the Finance Minister attending daily review meetings to take into account ground level reports. The secretary of the Department of Economic Affairs is briefing the media every day. The government did the best that it could have and people understand that. Everyone has been saying ‘Modiji ne thik kiya (Modiji did the right thing) even if there is some inconvenience now. Which political party can take an anti-people move, especially when it has to go back to those same people to get re-elected,” Sitharaman said during an interaction at the BJP office.

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With the BJP facing flak on demonetisation both inside Parliament, where there is a stalemate in the Rajya Sabha, and outside, with a clutch of political parties led by West Bengal CM Mamata Banerjee marching to Rashtrapati Bhawan last week demanding a rollback, Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Friday asked all party MPs to publicise the positive aspects of demonetisation.

Sitharaman junked Congress claims that it will take seven to eight months for the situation to normalise and accused the Opposition of fear-mongering.

“Congress is left with no weapons, there is nothing in their arguments either. We agreed to a discussion in the Rajya Sabha. The Finance Minister himself sat through the speeches even though it was clear that there is no substance in the Congress speeches. That realisation is what propelled them on the second day to disrupt proceedings,” Sitharaman said.

BJP sources, meanwhile, said that with 85-86 per cent of the money in circulation being in

Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 denominations, some inconvenience is inevitable. There is, however, no substance in accusations of lack of preparation as Rs 2,000 currency notes would not have been available in the market five days after the announcement, had that been the case, they said.

“When we started the Jan Dhan Yojana in September 2014, there was scepticism about the feasibility of zero balance accounts and financial inclusion the way we imagined it. But it did happen and now there are these accounts which are active… Demonetisation was essential because we realised quite a chunk of the currency notes of Rs 1,000 and Rs 500 were not coming back to the RBI for exchange as soiled notes etc. That was the cash being stashed away and that is what we are targeting as well as counterfeit money,” said a BJP leader.