Congress leader Anand Sharma tore into the government on the first day of the winter session of Parliament, demanding that Prime Minister Narendra Modi apologise for creating "financial anarchy" in the country with his decision to cancel the tender character of bank notes of the highest denominations.
"You have created financial anarchy in this country with your decision. Which law allows you to stop us from withdrawing our own money from the banks," Sharma said even as the PM, earlier in the day asked for cooperation from all political parties for the smooth functioning of the House.
He raised the issue of mining baron and former BJP Minister Gali Janardhan Reddy's daughter's opulent wedding preparations, allegedly estimated at Rs 500 crore, at a time when ATMs are running dry, and deaths have occurred due to reasons directly or indirectly linked to the demonetisation.
Everyone claims to be a surgeon today, without ever performing a surgery. Everything is a surgical strike nowadays.
"Rs 500 crore has been spent by Janardhan Reddy for his daughter's wedding function, it is being attended by BJP leaders, and they talk about fighting black money, why don't you arrest him," the Congress leader fired at the government as a Union Minister Piyush Goyal tried to defend the move by saying that it has achieved wide acceptance from the common folks in the country.
Sharma also asked the PM to apologise for "mocking the people who are standing in queues".
"Everyone claims to be a surgeon today, without ever performing a surgery. Everything is a surgical strike nowadays," he said referring to the military raids across the Line of Control to target terror launch pads after a deadly attack on Indian soil that caused the highest armed forces toll in recent times. Following the surgical strike, it became a common occurrence for peaceniks and critics of the military raid to be attacked by pro-government groups on social platforms. The groups severely criticised any person expressing doubts about the strike or questioning the military.
"An atmosphere has been created by government where questioning the government has become the parameter to decide one's nationalism," Sharma said, referring to the happenings of the past few months.
Modi on his part said that he was optimistic of a positive session and that the government was ready for any debate.
"In the last session an important bill like the GST was passed, it was a big step. I had thanked all parties then. In the Winter Session, a very positive discussion will happen and on all issues with contribution of all parties," Modi said in the morning outside Parliament.
"Our government believes in discussing all issues and we are ready to debate on any topic," he was quoted by ANI as saying.
Leader of the Opposition in Lok Sabha, Mallikarjun Kharge, earlier on Sunday said that the Congress MPs would raise the demonetisation issue under Rules 56 and 193 during the Winter Session. Leader of Opposition in the Rajya Sabha, Ghulam Nabi Azad, has also given a notice under Rule 267 for discussion on the issue of Kashmir unrest.
Power Minister Goyal rejected as baseless the opposition charge that there was "leakage" of the decision and said everyone was taken by surprise which is why there are "initial" problems.
"There is no politics in it. It is a step taken in national interest," he said, adding the step will help the country in the long run.
"If anyone has the strength to take on black money and corruption, it is the BJP government and Narendra Modi," the minister said.
"I am confident that public is understanding the initial problems because the decision was kept a secret. No honest tax-payer will lose a single rupee. The loss will be of those who have amassed wealth through corruption and black money and the public should also support the government in the move," he said.
Sharma asked the Prime Minister to state where he got Rs 23,000-24,000 crore, estimated by the International Money Watch Group, for his Lok Sabha elections. He also asked if cheque or credit card payments were made to organise his rally in Ghazipur in Uttar Pradesh a few days ago.
Alleging that the information on demonetisation was selectively leaked, he said, "your BJP units have deposited crores (just before the November 8 decision)."
As the debate was in progress, BSP chief Mayawati demanded the presence of the Prime Minister in the House to hear out the Opposition parties and address their concerns.
Supporting her, Leader of Opposition Ghulam Nabi Azad said since Lok Sabha has adjourned for the day, Modi should hear out at least the major parties.
Quoting media reports, Sharma said State Bank of India - the country's largest lender - knew of the decision way back in March and a Gujarati newspaper had in April published a report of move to withdraw 500 and 1000 rupee notes.
He demanded a probe into "how many people bought more than Rs 1 crore of foreign currency and bullion" since April.
"This is a serious issue... you never kept secrecy (about the decision)," Sharma said.
I condemn the Prime Minister for calling the poor standing in queue for his Rs 4000-4,500, black money holders and scamsters.
"Your government is insensitive," he said adding Modi was riding a bullet train in Japan when old, women and common man were queueing up at banks at 3 am in the morning to get currency to buy their daily needs.
"I condemn the Prime Minister for calling the poor standing in queue for his Rs 4000-4,500, black money holders and scamster," he said.
Referring to Modi's statement in Goa last week that certain forces were out to eliminate him, the Congress leader asked him to name the conspirators wanting to eliminate Prime Minister of India. Congress will not tolerate anyone planning to harm the Prime Minister of the country, he said.
Taking a dig at the Modi, he said someone who "changes clothes five times a day", has become Prime Minister and travels around the globe was "calling himself a sanyasi and tapasvi".
Sharma demanded that the names of persons holding accounts in Swiss bank and those revealed in the Leichtenstein and HSBC lists should be made public. The names of bank loan defaulters above Rs 5000 crore should also be made public.
While the decision had put the common man to immense hardship by way of having to stand in long queues to lay hands on valid currency to meet daily needs, the information about demonetisation was selectively leaked to the "friends of BJP," Sharma alleged.
The move had branded 86 per cent of the currency in circulation blackmoney and "everyone a criminal," he said adding when Modi announced the plan it was expected that adequate arrangements would be made for dispensing new notes.
So banks and ATMs were shut on November 9 but the expectation of normalcy from next day were dashed with queues only getting longer by the day.
He said former RBI Governor IG Patel had written about the government's decision to demonetise currency in 1978 and it would be absurd to think that all ill-gotten money is kept in cash and not invested in real estate, billion, equities or foreign exchange.
Modi, Sharma said, had reasoned that withdrawal of the higher denomination currency to fight against black money, terrorist funding and counterfeit currency. Congress is unequivocally opposed to black money and opposes any force that print counterfeit currency.
Sharma said the government in one stroke took away 86.4 per cent of the over Rs 16 lakh crore currency in circulation.
"Elections are not fought with money power. You cannot win elections through money power. No one can win elections like that. Elections are won only by winning the hearts of people.
Earlier, Deputy Chairman P J Kurien said he had received as many as 13 notices under rule 267 for suspension of business to take up discussion on inconvenience and hardships caused by demonetisation of currency.
Azad demanded that the PM should at least "hear out the feelings of six-seven main parties, otherwise there is a mismatch. The feelings of opposition members should be heard by PM. I demand that at least he hears them out and sit in the House at least today. We can wait for him to come."
This was objected to by D P Tripathi (NCP), who said that as Leader of the Opposition he should not distinguish between the big and small parties.
Ram Gopal Yadav (who was expelled from SP) joined Anand Sharma to allege that information on demonetisation was "leaked" and termed it as a scam while demanding a thorough probe into it.
BJP Leader Tweeted About Rs 2000 Note
"A BJP leader in Punjab had tweeted on November 5 about the new Rs 2000 note. How did this happen? This is an issue of concern. There is a scam in this. This should definitely be probed," he said, alleging further that 10 per cent of the people have 90 per cent of wealth of the country and the remaining 90 per cent do not have anything.
The common people, especially the poor and the housewives were put to great hardship through this move and if elections are held today they will teach this government a lesson, he said, adding that majority of women who saved money through household savings were upset with the move.
"Elections are not fought with money power. You cannot win elections through money power. No one can win elections like that. Elections are won only by winning the hearts of people," he said.
Demonetisation of high denomination currency has created big problems to common people and and law and order situation is being created with police being deployed outside banks to control the queue.
(With agency inputs)