The demonetisation may have come as a shock to the nation, but Prime Minister Narendra Modi today asserted that there could have been no better time for it. He then taunted the Congress by questioning its record with regard to various issues.
Modi, who has been under sustained attack from the Congress and other opposition parties, for the first time gave reasons for the timing of the decision to scrap old notes of Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 in November last year.
Replying to a debate in the Lok Sabha on the Motion of Thanks on the President's Address, which was adopted by the House later amid a walkout by the Congress, he replied point-by-point to the issues raised by the Opposition, including surgical strikes and allocations for MNREGA, agriculture sector and for scheduled castes. The Opposition had moved 189 amendments to the Motion which were negated.
In his 90-minute speech, which was punctuated by protests by some Opposition members at certain points, Modi also raised a pitch for simultaneous elections to Lok Sabha and Assemblies, asking all parties to consider the proposal, rising above political considerations as "everybody will face some difficulty" if it is implemented. He took swipes at the Congress and particularly targeted Rahul Gandhi for his "earthquake" remark, saying it has finally occurred as he referred to last night's tremors in north India.
On the demonetisation, the Prime Minister said,
Some people have said why was this (demonetisation) decision taken when the economy was doing well...It was the best time for demonetisation as the economy was strong. Had the economy been weak, then we could not have done it successfully.
In this regard, he gave the example of a patient who has to undergo surgery. "Before subjecting a patient to surgery, a doctor checks all the parameters of the patient and only when those parameters are fine, is the operation done," he said. He emphasised that the decision was not taken in a haste as contended by some sections. "Don't assume that Modi does anything in a haste. For that you will need to study Modi."
Acknowledging that demonetisation had brought "difficulties" to the people, he said, however, that the decision was not taken for any political mileage but for the benefit of the poor. "We had to take it and took it," he said. Modi listed out the steps taken by his government to curb black money, including setting up of SIT, tightening the law on benami, Real Estate Bill, making PAN requirement mandatory for cash transactions of Rs 2 lakh and above, and revision of tax treaties with countries like Mauritius, Singapore, and the USA.
Had it been for political benefit, you would have done it, he told the Congress.