NEW DELHI/KUSHINAGAR/PATNA -- On Sunday evening, a day ahead of the nation-wide protests planned by the opposition against demonetisation, Prime Minister Narendra Modi defended the move and warned unscrupulous people using the Jan Dhan accounts of the poor to launder their black money of strict action.
Lead opposition party Congress continued to target Modi over demonetising old high-denomination currency notes, terming it a "political move made without preparation" that stemmed from his propensity for "dhamaka politics" (politics aimed at seeking publicity).
The JD(U) will, however, not be a part of the proposed protests as its leader and Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar has supported demonetisation of old ₹500 and ₹1,000 notes.
With Jan Dhan accounts witnessing a surge in deposits, Modi issued a warning to those using poor people to park their illegal money, saying the strict 'benami' law would be implemented against such transactions.
He appealed to the people to shift to cashless system of transactions like mobile banking and asked the youth to help in this process by educating the elders and those not literate.
In his monthly radio programme Mann ki Baat, first after the demonetisation decision, Modi devoted substantial part of the 37-minute broadcast to the issue over which he is under opposition attack.
The Prime Minister said, "Even now, some people think they can bring their black money, the money earned through corruption or the one which is unaccounted for, back into the system through illegal means. Unfortunately, they are misusing the poor for this purpose by misleading, luring or tempting them by putting money into their accounts."
He said "a very stringent law to deal with 'benami' transactions is being implemented, that will make such things (transactions) very difficult. Government does not want the people to face such difficulties."
"I would tell such [unscrupulous] people that to reform or not reform is your wish. Following the law or not is your wish - that the law will take care of. But please don't play with the life of the poor. Don't do anything due to which, when there is an investigation, the name of the poor comes on record and he gets into trouble because of you."
Later, addressing BJP's Parivartan Yatra in UP's Kushinagar, Modi repeatedly attacked his rivals for calling a Bharat Bandh on 28 November.
We are trying to check black money and the opposition is busy calling a Bharat Bandh. Tell me, what should be stopped? Should black money be stopped or a Bharat Bandh be called?PM Modi
Speaking to reporters in Delhi, senior Congress leader Jairam Ramesh, however, said no 'Bharat Bandh' has been called and that opposition parties will only hold protests across the country against demonetisation.
Calling demonetisation a political move, Ramesh said it had brought all economic activity to a standstill.
"It is a political decision for three reasons. Prime Minister Narendra Modi believes in dhamaka (publicity oriented) approach to politics. This is a dhamaka which has changed the narrative. From 8 November there is no other talk but of demonetisation," he said.
Union minister M Venkaiah Naidu took a jibe at the Congress for planning to stage protests on 28 November.
Congress is clearly rattled by certain transformational results...this is the clear reason for it being angry.M Venkaiah Naidu
"Realising the popular support to remonetisation, it is now calling its countrywide bandh akrosh rallies. From this, it is clear that all of this is aimed at finding some space in the media as it has clearly lost its space at the debating forum of Parliament and in the minds of the people," Naidu said.
JD(U), meanwhile, said it will not participate in the nation-wide protests on Monday or Mamata Banerjee's dharna in Patna on 30 November.
"We have supported he Centre's demonetisation move. How can we oppose or be the part of activity like bandh which is meant to protest the issue which our party has strongly supported," Bihar unit JD(U) President Bashishtha Narayan Singh said.
"JD(U) will not be part of any agitation against demonetisation including the dharna by Mamata Banerjee on 30 November in Patna," party Secretary General KC Tyagi said.
"We have taken an ideological position in favour of demonetisation so how can we be part of any agitation seeking its roll back," Tyagi said.
The ruling Samajwadi Party in poll-bound UP said the demonetisation drive smacked of an attempt at "financially harming" rival political parties ahead of elections.
"Prime Minister Narendra Modi's demonetisation move is aimed at financially harming rival political parties in 2017 UP Assembly polls. This poll is a do or die for BJP. BJP thought that due to impact of demonetisation, rival parties in the state will not be able to withdraw money for polls," SP national vice president Kironmay Nanda told PTI.
PM Modi's demonetisation move is aimed at financially harming rival political parties in 2017 UP Assembly polls.Samajwadi Party
"BJP does not know that this step is going to be atmghati (suicidal) for the party. People who are standing in long queues for getting their own money will vote against BJP to vent their ire," he said.
AIADMK attacked Modi for speaking about demonetisation only outside Parliament, saying he was "slighting Constitution and democracy".
Listing a set of questions over demonetisation and its implications, AIADMK said, "The Prime Minister who is supposed to answer all these questions is slighting the Constitution and democracy by seeking to explain about it only in places other than the Parliament".
"...Having many loopholes (in demonetisation), the BJP's claim to root out black money is like cultivation of desert by drawing water using a bucket that has a sieve for its bottom," the Tamil Nadu's ruling party said in its mouthpiece, Dr Namadhu MGR.
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