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AHMEDABAD/ NEW DELHI: Union finance minister Arun Jaitley and former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh clashed on Tuesday, the eve of demonetisation’s first anniversary, with Singh reiterating his charge that notebandi was “organised loot” and “plunder” and Jaitley hitting back saying this best described the UPA-era 2G and coal scams. The debate has gained an edge with the measure, along with GST, seen as a poll issue in Gujarat. Jaitley said demonetisation was an “ethical drive and moral step” while the 2G, CWG and coal scams were loot. “That’s the basic difference between us and Congress,” he said. Singh, in Ahmedabad as part of Congress’s plans to mark November 8 as a “black day”, was equally biting. “Demonetisation proved to be mere bluster to reap political dividends while the real offenders escaped. I repeat, this was organised loot and legalised plunder,” he said.
Speaking in the Rajya Sabha on February 8 during a discussion on demonetisation, Singh had described demonetisation as organised loot and plunder and had said GDP could decline by 2 per cent. “Those who say demonetisation is good in the long run, should recall the quote: ‘In the long run, we’re all dead.”
Singh’s jibe had prompted PM Narendra Modi to accuse him of being selective. “There were many scams around him, but his own image remained clean. Dr Sahab is the only person who knows the art of bathing in a bathroom with a raincoat on,” Modi had said.
Drafted to take on Modi in his home state, Singh said on Tuesday, “None of the stated objectives of eliminating black money, terror financing and counterfeit currency have been met. The fact that more than 99 per cent of demonetised currency came back into the banking system has punctured the government’s claims.” Maintaining that the government had learnt no lesson from this monumental blunder, he said, “Instead of providing relief to poor and marginalised, farmers, traders, and the small and medium businesses, who suffered the brunt of demonetisation, the government chose to inflict on them a badly designed and hastily implemented GST.”
In Delhi, Jaitley asked Singh to compare pre-2014 and post-2014 reputations of India’s economy. “You were being considered an economy impacted by policy paralysis… You were off the global radar. Today, there isn’t an international agency which does not eulogise the kind and quality of structural reforms India has taken,” he said.
Demonetisation led to a larger formal economy, and a cleaner one with a bigger tax base, the FM said, adding that the government and BJP strongly stand by the decision a year after making the “historic” announcement that marked a “watershed moment” for the economy. “We set up a SIT against black money, a black money law was introduced and several treaties were amended.”