Two days after BJP MPs from eastern UP warned the party that its electoral prospects in the poll-bound state could be affected if the cash crunch is not resolved by mid-January, Prime Minister Narendra Modi blamed the Congress for the problems facing the country and said such a situation would not have arisen had the late Indira Gandhi shown the courage to demonetise high value currency in the early 1970s.
Addressing BJP MPs on Friday, the last day of the winter session of Parliament, Modi indicated that the government could come up with more measures to “free” the poor and middle class from “exploitation” and the country from corruption and black money.
He said if small traders switch to digital transactions, there will soon be a day when they will get loans in six minutes. Pointing out that that one has to fill several documents and wait a long time for a loan to be sanctioned, he said: “There can be a situation… I can see it very vividly, from the platform of the Indian government. When a trader does online transaction, it’s online and his turnover is clear. I can see such a day… if that trader wants a loan, it will take maximum six minutes. With this technology, he will get Rs 25,000 or 50,000 in six minutes.”
The Prime Minister said he had given strict instructions to officials and tax authorities not to harass small businessmen by digging up their past records or accounts. Describing the benefits of the Lucky Grahak Yojana and Digi-Dhan Vyapar Yojana, he said: “Take the case of a dhobi. His father must have done the same job. If he wants a loan, the bank will not give him a single paisa because he has no record of his income. You have no idea what he earns, how much he earns. He gets Rs 5 or something if someone gives him clothes to iron. If he does digital transactions, his records will be automatically maintained online.”
He urged party MPs to go to the villages and inform them about government schemes on digitisation. “We have to fight this battle and take it forward,” he said. He recalled he had warned the nation of hardship for 50 days. “After 50 days, difficulties will be less and there will not be delay in restoring normalcy. Even now I am saying, there are reports that things are getting normal, but there will be difficulties. But it will gradually come down.”
Reiterating his push towards a digital economy, Modi said it is not just about becoming cashless, it is also about changing the way of life, the economic system. He assured MPs that demonetisation was not a decision taken in haste. “We do not think or plan in piecemeal, but in full-scale design. It is just that we are revealing our cards gradually,” he said.
Quoting extensively from Madhav Godbole’s Unfinished Innings: Recollections and Reflections of a Civil Servant, the Prime Minister said a committee led by N N Wanchoo had proposed demonetisation of high value currency to the Indira Gandhi government.
“When (then Finance Minister) Y B Chavan told her about the proposals (of the Wanchoo committee) on demonetisation and his view that it should be accepted and implemented forthwith, she (Indira Gandhi) just looked at him and asked Chavan only one question: ‘Chavanji, are no more elections to be fought by the Congress party? Chavan got the message’.Tell me, is the nation big or the party for them?”
“If that work was done in 1971, the country would not have been destroyed like this. Is this how the country should have been run? All these difficulties we are facing now… because for them, the party is bigger than the country. But for us, the country is bigger than the party.”
Modi also recalled that former RBI Governor Y V Reddy who, in one of his lectures, mentioned that the Benami Transactions (Prohibition) Act was passed by Parliament in 1988 but was not implemented for more than two decades. “Now, this government has made timely changes to it and it has been notified. If I take action on the basis of it, which this government will do, they will shout, why has Modi taken a hasty decision.”
He said Manmohan Singh had also warned of serious action against tax evaders in 1991. “He had spoken in the language of threat then, but now? They do not think about the country.” He cited a para from Chanakya Neeti which states “wealth earned through unfair practices stays for only 10 years, in the 11th year you will lose it along with the capital”. This, he said, was true of the UPA since it lost power after 10 years.
Praising the chief ministers of Odisha and Bihar for their support to his demonetisation move, Modi criticised the Communists for opposing it. He quoted Jyotirmoy Basu and Harkishan Singh Surjeet to point out that Communists had always backed demonetisation to fight black money.
“With their behaviour in the House during this winter session, the Communist party has proved that it has compromised its ideology with Congress… The CPM has moved away from its ideological path,” he said. “The fundamental difference is that earlier the House used to be stalled whenever there was an expose on a scam or over a serious issue of corruption. It is the first time that treasury benches are taking steps against corruption and black money, and the Opposition gets together to protect the dishonourable,” he said.