New Delhi: Taking no notice of protesting opposition parties, Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Sunday backed the partial demonetization move and reached out to the youth to enlist them in what he described as a transformative moment for India.
Linking demonetization to corruption of the privileged, the prime minister, in his monthly radio programme Mann Ki Baat, sought to inject the narrative of class in the ongoing debate on demonetization. Modi issued a warning to those using the poor to launder their illegal wealth.
Not only is the PM seeking to blunt the arguments raised by the opposition, he is also appealing to the aspirational quotient—something he had tapped so successfully in the 16th general election—especially among the youth.
His remarks come a day ahead of a nationwide protest being organized by the opposition parties on Monday and a day after he claimed that those opposing the move were doing so because they were caught unawares, implying that they had illegal wealth to conceal.
“Some people never learn from their mistakes. After accumulating black money, they are now using the poor to bring their black money back in the system. I appeal to them that please don’t use the poor and don’t make them put your black money in their bank accounts. The government is implementing the benami property Act and it will create more trouble for people holding such property,” he said.
He also urged the youth to actively support centre’s initiative to build a cashless society.“Even if we can’t build a cashless society, at least we try to create a less-cash society. I urge the youth to not just support the move of the government but to also become soldiers of bringing this change by teaching at least 10 families about the benefits of online banking, e-wallets and mobile payments,” the PM said.
Modi said transition to a direct payments regime would eliminate the middleman and help the poor, particularly daily wage workers.
Addressing his political critics, Modi said there was a deliberate attempt to confuse people about demonetization. He also made an appeal to people to be patient.
Modi found support from common people. “Most of the people now have smart phones and we can easily take time out and explain the procedure to those who haven’t gone cashless,” said Anubhooti Kini, a second year student at Faculty of Law, University of Delhi.
Later at an election rally in Uttar Pradesh, Modi targeted the opposition afresh. Referring to their proposed protest on Monday, he said, “We want to shut down corruption and they (opposition) want to shut down the country.”
There is a division within the ranks of the opposition, with Bihar chief minister Nitish Kumar-led Janata Dal (United) deciding to opt out of the protest. Senior leaders of the JD(U) said they have informed the Congress and Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD), their coalition partners in Bihar, of the decision.
The response from the opposition to the PM’s latest remarks was swift. “Mann Ki Baat has now become Modi Ki Baat; misusing government machinery,” said West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee in a tweet.
The opposition doesn’t seem to be in a mood to relent. “Demonetization is the most key issue in the nation right now and we should not expect any other legislative business until this happens,” a senior Rajya Sabha member from Congress said requesting anonymity.
Analysts feel that prime minister sees demonetization as a means to bring about social change. “PM sees the need to build a larger consensus beyond political boundaries to carry the message of demonetization; that is why he is talking directly to youth, Dalits and farmers. He realises the need to take this exercise to a logical conclusion and at least achieve cashless functioning,” said Jai Mrug, Mumbai-based political analyst.