NEW DELHI -- In a bid to counter the opposition campaign, the BJP will celebrate November 8, the day high value currencies were demonetised last year, as "Anti-Black Money Day" across the country.
Announcing the party's decision to counter the opposition plans for observing the day as "Black Day", Finance Minister Arun Jaitley on Wednesday said all prominent leaders, union ministers, state ministers and office bearers will participate in programmes across the country.
On November 8, the party will organise programmes highlighting all the steps the government has taken against black money. He said since the government was formed in 2014, from day one it had taken steps against black money.
"There was a parallel black money economy in the country. When the NDA government came to power (May 2014), Prime Minister Narendra Modi took steps to minimise and end it. On November 8, the BJP will celebrate 'Anti-Black Money Day' and mobilise people in favour of the steps taken against black money," Jaitley told reporters here.
The special investigation team (SIT) to go into black money, which was directed by the Supreme Court in 2011 and was not acted upon by the previous UPA government, was formed by the NDA, the Finance Minister said.
He said the government also brought in laws to check black money by giving a last opportunity to those who had stashed money abroad by offering them 60% for repatriating their assets.
"The account holders in Liechtenstein and HSBC have all been assessed and criminal action has been filed against them. The government has also worked internationally under the G20 framework and other fora, including an agreement with Switzerland, to get real time information on black money stashed abroad to evade tax.
"Agreements with Mauritius and Cyprus that allowed round tripping of money have been reworked."
Jaitley also hit out at the Congress over its plans to observe the day because the demonetisation decision was "ill conceived".
"Various account holders in banks which were illegal, cases were filed against them. Demonetisation was a big step towards it. It was a huge step for squeezing cash economy, cash-based transactions and widened the tax base. All the three steps were the positive results of demonetisation and along with GST it would make cash generation difficult."
Apparently referring to the opposition criticism, Jaitley said it was normal for political parties which had a number of opportunities to be in power earlier not recognize that the squeeze on black money and the other steps cannot be achieved through baby steps.
The Finance Minister said the BJP would carry forward the debate by the opposition to polarize people against black money through its own campaign.
Asked whether the Prime Minister would participate in the campaign, Jaitley said the details were being worked out.
Asked about Congress Vice President Rahul Gandhi's remarks that demonetisation was the biggest blunder, the BJP leader said he could not recall a single significant step taken by the Congress against black money.
"They have reconciled to India living with black money. I can understand their discomfort. The Congress had adequate opportunities to be in power and I cannot recollect a single significant step that they ever took against black money. The steps taken by the NDA government are not small," the BJP leader said.
He said the statements by the Congress and its leaders showed that they had not understood the objective behind demonetisation.
"Cash is bearer money in the system and its ownership is not known. It has an anonymous odour and anyone can use it. When cash gets deposited in banks, it gets into a lawful system. So for an entry into lawful system you are liable to pay tax. The entry into the formal system requires payment of tax and is not money laundering."
Referring to questions about money deposited after demonetisation to convert black into white, Jaitley said mere depositing of money doesn't make it legal. "Eighteen lakh people have been found to have deposited money disproportionate to their source of income."
"Confiscation of money was never the objective of demonetisation. Squeezing of cash and that used by terrorists and negating counterfeit currency were the objectives of the note ban. I think once the fundamentals of the objective are understood, they (the Congress) will appreciate it better."
The Congress led 18 opposition parties on Tuesday said they will observe November 8 as Black Day to protest against the "ill-conceived and hasty" decision of the government to scrap Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 currency notes a year ago.
Replying to another question, he said: "The government and the party feel that people are cleverer than you (Congress) and they are supporting us. This is not a one-off campaign and will continue to persist as part of the larger programme of the party."
Replying to a question on the Congress criticism of the government's Tuesday announcement of re-capitalisation of banks, he said: "Those who have destroyed the country are now preaching, Between 2008-12, there was indiscriminate lending by which banks were made hollow.