On the eve of the first anniversary of demonetisation, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley on 7th November 2017 contested Congress leader Manmohan Singh who was addressing traders and businessmen at an auditorium in Ahmedabad, ripping into the Narendra Modi government’s big reforms notes ban and GST and for calling demonetization an organized loot, insisting the exercise was an unethical drive and an immoral step that made corruption difficult. In an interaction with a group of traders in Ahmedabad, he said demonetization was a black day for India’s economy and democracy. “Nowhere in the World any democracy has taken such a coersive step.”
“The loot is what happened in the 2G scam, Commonwealth games and allocation of coal blocks, whereas demonetization was an economic exercise based on ethical and moral rationales”, Jaitley told reporters.
“An anti-black money drive is an ethical drive, a moral step. And what is morally and ethically correct has to be politically correct,” the minister said, targeting the former prime minister.
Demonetisation and GST roll-out have become major issues in the assembly elections in Gujarat and Himachal Pradesh, with the main opposition maintaining that the two structural reform measures had adversely affected the economy.
The finance minister said while the 10 years of UPA government were characterized by policy paralysis, the Modi dispensation introduced structural reforms to make India a developed nation and give it a cleaner economy.
The Chief Minister also asked how as an economist Dr Singh not supported new national sales tax GST, which benefits every Indian.
According to Dr Singh, “the twin blow of last year’s demonetization and the Goods and Services Tax (GST) implemented this July is a complete disaster for our economy, it has broken the back of our small businesses.”
The Congress and other opposition parties have said they will mark November 8 as “black day.”
Elaborating on the benefits of demonetisation, the minister said it was aimed at making India a more formal economy with a broader tax base and less cash in the system.
The BJP which has ruled Gujarat for the last 22 years, has staunchly defended the economic policies of the central government it leads, with PM Modi and senior ministers and leaders asserting that both demonetization and GST will fetch long term games, accusing those who oppose them of weakening the cause of fighting corruption. They are observing the day as “anti-black money day,” to celebrate the war on corruption.
Dr Singh criticized Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s pet project the Mumbai-Ahmedabad bullet train corridor, saying the project was “an exercise in vanity”. He asked if the Prime Minister considered an alternative to the high-speed train by upgrading broad gauge railway. “By questioning bullet trains does one become anti-development? Does questioning GST and demonetization make one a tax evader?”
Dr Singh also accused the Gujarat government of selling forest lands to industries instead of allowing tribals to farm.